The SFS Center for Rainforest Studies


This is not the Australia you know. Towering strangler fig trees and prehistoric species such as the southern cassowary and salt water crocodile can be found in these ancient rainforests. Far North Queensland is one of the most biodiverse places in the world, preserving more than 500 million years of evolutionary history. It is also home to Earth’s largest living organism – the Great Barrier Reef.

Based in this rugged region, SFS conducts field exercises in Australia’s legendary forests, with excursions to the edge of the Outback and the Great Barrier Reef. Our research focuses on the environmental threats that have caused rainforest fragmentation, species loss, and reef die-off, and contributes to community efforts to reverse these trends.



Rainforest to Reef

Immerse yourself in the rich biodiversity of the rainforest and learn about ecological resilience in the face of climate change and other environmental threats. Connect rainforest management and conservation issues with downstream impacts on the Great Barrier Reef. Become a part of large-scale restoration ecology experiments and study environmental policy and community conservation approaches while developing skills in field research and data collection.
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14 Weeks
16 Credits
Spring 2019

Jan 28 - May 2

Filling Fast

Fall 2019

Sep 2 - Dec 5


Spring 2020

Feb 3 - May 7


summer session I

Rainforests of New Zealand and Australia

In this two-country program, you will learn how environmental and social factors have contributed to forest fragmentation in the spectacular, once-vast rainforests of Australia and New Zealand. Compare endangered species management practices, meet with indigenous communities to learn about their natural resource use, and examine ecosystem restoration approaches.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2019

Jun 3 - Jul 3


summer session II

Watersheds of the Wet Tropics

The Great Barrier Reef and the tropical rainforests of northern Australia form a complex, interconnected system. Spend your summer learning about rainforest and watershed management in this verdant region while considering the policies and actions needed to maintain healthy waterways in the face of climate change.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2019

Jul 8 - Aug 7


Life In The Field

At the end of a narrow, winding road, in the middle of a lush rainforest, lies this remote field station. The 153-acre property is surrounded by protected World Heritage forests, and comes alive at night with the sounds of wildlife. The nearby town of Yungaburra and city of Cairns provide the occasional return to civilization.

  • Group living in 8-person cabins
  • Main building with classroom, lab, and study spaces
  • Student lounge with scenic porch views
  • Covered outdoor dining area, on-site cooking staff
  • Volleyball and extensive trail network for hiking
  • Swimming and running trails a nearby Crater Lake
Click here to read stories from students, staff and faculty in the field

It feels like a dream to walk through these ancient forests full of giant trees, curling vines, lush tree ferns, and swaying palms.

Lindsey Schad
Miami University


Research at the SFS Center for Rainforest Studies focuses on rainforest management, ecosystem restoration, and the complex connection between the rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef. Students and faculty engage with local communities, indigenous groups, NGOs, and local landholders. As the oldest rainforest on the planet, management strategies developed here may serve as a model for conserving and restoring other rainforests around the world.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Climate change resilience
  • Habitat restoration
  • Marsupial behavior
  • Aboriginal ecotourism
  • Post-logging forest recovery
  • Forest ecotones

Environmental Issues

Our Centers are strategically located in regions facing critical environmental issues. Students and faculty study these issues and collect data to help facilitate sustainable responses. In Australia, we’re currently investigating the following issues:

Climate Change
Biodiversity Conservation
Land Use Change
Community Resource Management
Natural Resource & Water Management
Sustainable Livelihoods
Learn More About the Issues


The Local Community

SFS is an active part of the Queensland community. Throughout the program, students assist in local restoration projects, host community dinners, attend festivals, and socialize with local conservation groups and at sporting competitions. SFS research data is shared with the community, local NGOs, and the Australian government.

Meet Our Team

Sigrid Heise-Pavlov, Ph.D.

Professor in Rainforest Ecology
Meet Sigrid

Justus Kithiia, Ph.D.

Associate Professor in Environmental Policy & Socioeconomic Values
Meet Justus

Catherine Pohlman, Ph.D.

Lecturer in Principles of Forest Management
Meet Catherine

John Hall

Site Manager
Meet John

William Johnson

Assistant Site Manager
Meet William

Nicola "Nikki" May

HR/Accounting Coordinator
Meet Nicola

Caitlin Reilly

Student Affairs Assistant
Meet Caitlin

Mike Kowalski

Program Assistant
Meet Mike