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Tropical Rainforest Studies


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Location Yungaburra, Queensland, Australia
Language English

Fall 2016: August 29 – December 1

Spring 2017: January 30 – May 4

Deadline Rolling admissions. Early submissions encouraged.
Program Cost

Click here for program costs. Program cost includes all tuition, room, board, local travel. Excludes airfare.

Financial Aid

Click here for more information about need-based scholarships, loans, and travel grants.


One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science; 18 years of age

Credits 16 credits
Through the field work exercises and my Directed Research project, I was finally able to be a part of the research instead of just entering data and assisting from the sideline. Being able to walk through the Australian rainforest and see what I had been learning about in the classroom gave me a deeper connection with the area then I could have ever believed to be possible.        

— Melissa Stine, University of California, San Diego, Fall '13



The program’s curriculum and strategic research plan address the critical local and regional environmental problem of loss and fragmentation of once extensive rainforests, and examine environmental policies on local and national levels. SFS staff and students, in collaboration with local landholders and stakeholder organizations, focus on enhancing the condition of tropical rainforests and determining how to regenerate and restore the rainforest of the Atherton Tablelands. Students also explore the connection between the cultures and livelihoods of Aboriginal communities and their surrounding environments.

Students learn field research techniques as they collect data on topics as diverse as:

  • Potential responses of biotic communities to climate change
  • Habitat use and animal behaviors
  • Resilience to cyclonic events
  • Sustainable tourism
  • Local resident involvement in restoration projects
  • Cost-effective and ecologically beneficial methods of rainforest restoration



  • Live in the heart of the rainforest, study ecology and conservation, and explore environmental policies and practices that shape sustainable development in the region
  • Camp in Chillagoe and explore the Outback’s caves, rock formations, remnant dry rainforests, and eucalypt savanna
  • Enjoy a multi-day excursion to Cape Tribulation and Daintree National Park, home to one of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world: hike through lowland rainforests, mangrove forests, and palm forests; traverse the Daintree River, famous for its crocodiles; visit the canopy tower at the Daintree Discovery Centre


  • Lend a hand at the TREAT (Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands Inc.) nursery
  • Explore the countries of local Aboriginal groups, gaining an understanding of indigenous culture and their use and management of natural resources
  • Assess local residents’ and tourists’ attitudes toward nature and restoration
  • Learn about the geology and historical biogeography of the Atherton Tablelands
  • Identify rainforest plants and assess forest community types across the region
  • Study the endemic fauna of Australia and gain an understanding of their ecological services in the tropical rainforest; learn about how invasive species impact Australian ecosystems
  • Get hands-on experience with rainforest restoration practices, such as propagating seedlings, planting new rainforests, and monitoring restoration plantings
  • Study the threat that climate change poses to tropical rainforests and use modeling tools to predict its impact in the Wet Tropics
  • Develop field research skills including GIS, animal identification and observation techniques, rainforest management strategies, social science research methods, data recording and analysis, research design, restoration techniques, climate modeling, scientific writing, and oral presentation


  • Working alongside the Mandingalbay Yidinji people to help determine barriers to and opportunities for the development of ecocultural tourism
  • Climate modeling, rainforest corridor plantings, and restoration
  • Evaluating the efficacy of policies used to address environmental problems
  • Studying patterns of colonization of restored rainforest by vertebrates
  • Assessing habitat use by yellow-bellied gliders and tree kangaroos
  • Using plant functional traits to predict drought and cyclone resistance
  • Determining carbon sequestration values of restored rainforests
  • Assessing nature-based tourism and its role in the Wet Tropics
  • Studying long-term effects and recovery of forests from selective logging


The Atherton Tablelands and Wet Tropics have been home to The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies for more than 25 years. SFS is an active and engaged partner with many community organizations including TREAT, Landcare, Tablelands National Park Volunteers, and Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group. Our research provides scientific data and has direct policy implications for local decision makers. It also creates important linkages between our Center and the diverse stakeholders involved in rainforest restoration and management and the development of sustainable communities and industries.

Our students forge strong connections with residents who are passionate and knowledgeable about environmental stewardship. Participating in restoration projects alongside citizen volunteers, students come to understand rainforest ecosystems and management from a local perspective.

SFS students and staff add significantly to the social fabric of the community by getting involved in community volunteer projects and social activities such as:

  • Helping local conservation groups and communities plant rainforest trees
  • Participating in community fauna surveys
  • Attending special lectures on wildlife in conjunction with local conservation groups
  • Hosting community dinners and participating in short homestays
  • Attending bush dances and community festivals, visiting the Malanda theatre, and socializing at the local pubs and sporting competitions
  • Engaging with Aboriginal elders to learn more about their culture and efforts to reclaim their role in land management


The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies lies on the edge of the Atherton Tablelands in the heart of the traditional land of the Yidinji people, not far from the small town of Yungaburra. Protected World Heritage forests and farmland surround rolling hills covered in tropical foliage. Student cabins are nestled within the rainforest, which comprises 97 percent of the property’s 153 acres. The site is alive with the sounds of the rainforest, and sightings of tropical birds, bandicoots, pademelons, musky rat kangaroos, amethystine pythons, and other rainforest species are common. Students share eight-person cabins with separate shower and bathroom facilities. The main building of the field station houses the classroom, dining area, and a common room, while the lab is just a short walk away.