The SFS Center for

Rainforest Studies




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, near the small town of Yungaburra. Protected World Heritage forests and farmland surround the Center. Student cabins are nestled within the rainforest, which comprises 97 percent of the property’s 153 acres.

From our base in the rainforest, SFS students and faculty collaborate with local stakeholders to research the loss and fragmentation of once extensive rainforests of the region.

Issues we focus on


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Semester Program

Rainforest to Reef

Contribute to the regeneration and restoration of once-extensive tropical rainforests of the Atherton Tablelands, and work with community organizations to understand the cultures, livelihoods, and natural resource management strategies of this important ecosystem. Learn More
Fall 2018


August 27 - November 29

Spring 2019


January 28 - May 2

Combine sessions and spend the summer with SFS!
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Summer Session I

Rainforests of New Zealand and Australia

Compare and contrast the ecological, geographic, and socioeconomic factors that have shaped natural resource management in Australia and New Zealand. Learn More
Summer 2019


June 3 - July 3

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Summer Session II

Techniques for Rainforest Research

Learn a suite of field research techniques while exploring tropical rainforests and learning about conservation and sustainable development. Learn More
Summer 2019


July 8 - August 7

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Who We Are

The Center is led by research scientist and faculty member Dr. Amanda Freeman, who has lived and researched in the Wet Tropics since 1997. Faculty interests at the Center span from understanding the interactions between human and ecological systems to rainforest microclimates. The Center’s faculty includes Sigrid Heise-Pavlov, Ph.D. (Rainforest Ecology), Justus Kithiia, Ph.D. (Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values), and Catherine Pohlman, Ph.D. (Principles of Forest Management).

Featured Alumnus

Justin Dohn

Australia Spring '08

My field experience in Australia is the source of my passion and enthusiasm for ecological research.

“Our work in Australia demonstrated firsthand how increased knowledge of the processes and functions governing ecological systems can directly impact the livelihoods of surrounding populations as well as the integrity of the ecosystem.” Justin’s path to Colorado State and Mali began at the 2009 Ecological Society of America meeting in Albuquerque, where he presented his SFS research on invasive lantana vines and interviewed…

Read More
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Our Research

The astonishing biodiversity of Australia’s rainforests and the country’s dynamic conservation efforts make Queensland an extraordinary laboratory for students to study rainforest management and restoration. Students consider the role of catchments (watersheds), riparian restoration, and connections between rainforest and reef. Management strategies developed here may serve as a model for conserving and restoring other rainforests around the world.

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. Of particular importance are the upland remnant forests threatened by climate change and the riparian forests that play an important role in the health of downstream ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef.

Students work with local stakeholders and indigenous groups to understand the livelihoods of local communities, natural resource management by these groups, and the connection of these communities to the surrounding environments.

Key Research Examples
  • Restoration efforts that are internationally ranked as some of the best in Australasia, and which help inform restoration efforts around the globe
  • Determining the habitat needs of endemic species such as Lumholtz’s tree-kangaroo, a local tree-climbing kangaroo
  • Investigating the potential responses and resilience of biotic communities to climate change and major climactic events
  • Restoration and sustainable tourism projects led by local and Aboriginal peoples
Select Publications

Freeman, A. N. D., Catterall, C. P., & Freebody, K. (2015). Use of restored habitat by rainforest birds is limited by spatial context and species’ functional traits but not by their predicted climate sensitivity. Biological Conservation, 186, 107-114

Freeman, A. N. D. (2015). The bird community of an Acacia-dominated secondary rainforest; a brief case study. Australian Field Ornithology, 32, 59-68.

Kithiia, J. (2015). Resourceless victims or resourceful collectives: Addressing the impacts of climate change through social capital in fringing coastal communities. Ocean & Coastal Management, 106, 110-117.

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Mike DeLue

Deep in the backcountry of Danbulla National Park, many ecosystems coexist in very close proximity.

The underbrush varies in species and density while the trees towering overhead shift rapidly from towering and bare Eucalyptus grandis with a wide-open canopy to densely packed rainforest species, with a dense canopy peppered with vines and epiphytes, all over relatively short distances. It is these ecotones, boundary areas between two distinct biomes, where students are working with Natural Resource Management Professor Catherine Pohlman to understand the nature of wet sclerophyll forests.

Mike DeLue
Student Affairs Manager, Australia
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Community Collaboration

SFS is an active partner in the community and our research provides scientific data which has policy implications for local decision-makers. 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.

Throughout the program, students have the opportunity to attend special lectures, workshops, and celebration days in conjunction with regional and national conservation groups. In addition to a weekend-long homestay with a local family (semester only), students also enjoy hosting community dinners at the Center, attending festivals, visiting the Malanda theatre, and socializing at the local pubs and sporting competitions.

Local Community Partners

  • TREAT (Trees for the Evelyn and Atherton Tablelands Inc.)
  • Yungaburra Landcare Group
  • Tablelands National Park Volunteers
  • Tree Kangaroo and Mammal Group

Contributing to the Community

  • Assisting community members with propagating, planting, and maintaining more than 15,000 trees annually to restore degraded forests, improve water quality, and sequester carbon
  • Speaking with Aboriginal elders to learn more about their culture and efforts to reclaim their role in land management
  • Assessing tree seedling recruitment and growth, while working toward recommending best practices for successful restoration

Life at the Center


The field station lies on the edge of the Atherton Tablelands on 153 acres covered with rainforest and is a twenty minute drive from the small town of Yungaburra. The site is alive with the sights and sounds of tropical birds, bandicoots, pademelons, musky rat kangaroos, amethystine pythons, and other rainforest species.

Student Cabins

  • Group living in eight-person cabins
  • Separate shower and bathroom facilities accessible by trails


Around the Center

  • Main building including classroom, study space, and dining area
  • Lab building
  • Lounge/recreation space
  • Trails for walking, running, and hiking
  • Swimming at nearby water hole