Environment and nature

Emma Jackson and Angela Capper, Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre Sea Flowers citizen science research project to restore marine flora.

  • Greater than 50% of Australian biodiversity is in Queensland
  • 83,000km2 of national parks
  • #1 to introduce biodiversity legislation aligning with the Nagoya protocol
  • 120 plus research facilities

Queensland has some of the most diverse natural ecosystems on Earth, with 13 terrestrial and 14 marine bioregions. Queensland is home to four natural-values World Heritage sites: the Great Barrier Reef; the Wet Tropics rainforests; the Gondwana rainforests and K’gari (Fraser Island). Queensland has some of the best managed large ecosystems on Earth with 8.2% of Queensland’s land area secured in protected areas and over 4.4 million hectares of land managed as private protected areas (as at 2021).

To understand and manage our megadiverse landscapes, four climatic zones and the impacts of environmental extremes (flood, fire and drought), urban and industrial development and climate change, Queensland has developed a sophisticated and extensive environmental research and natural area management capability.

Based on their expertise as the world’s first scientists and traditional custodians, over 150 First Nations land and sea rangers operate across 37 remote and regional communities. Many national parks now operate under co-stewardship partnerships with First Nations peoples. Queensland was the first Australian state to introduce biodiscovery legislation for the collection and analysis of native biological material for commercial use that establishes access to the resource under full and informed consent and a benefit-sharing agreement with First Nations people in alignment with the Nagoya Protocol.

Queensland has research expertise in natural systems which reflects the diversity and significance of Queensland’s environments. Areas of focus include aquatic ecosystems and health, reef science including world-leading reef resilience measurements, flora and fauna, understanding and mapping of biodiverse landscapes and soils, and fire ecology.

We also have expertise working with different sectors on environmental sustainability, reducing the impacts of human and economic activities on natural systems including catchment monitoring, management and modelling for air and water quality outcomes; mining remediation; biocontrols; water sensitive urban design; and renewable energy.

Queensland has several leading institutes and centres and over 100 research organisations involved in advanced manufacturing research.

Leading environment and nature research centres

All environment and nature research centres

Industry-research collaboration and commercialisation

  • Novel water technologies

    To accelerate their world-class research and enable increased adoption of new technology within the water industry, the Australian Centre for Water and Environmental Biotechnology have formalised their decades long collaboration Urban Utilities in a 5-year strategic alliance to test and demonstrate novel water technologies in real world conditions.

  • Environmental Artificial Intelligence

    To meet national water quality targets to ensure only very low concentrations of herbicides enter the Great Barrier Reef, the JCU Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research (TropWATER), Sugar Research Australia and AutoWeed Pty Ltd have developed a smart spot spraying that uses deep learning to detect and spray weeds.

  • Marine research

    Seagrasses, vital for healthy coastal ecosystems, are in decline globally. The Seagrass Restoration Research Program at CQUniversity Coastal Marine Ecosystems Research Centre is collaborating with the Gladstone Ports Corporation and other partners to explore ways to restore and grow seagrass meadows in the sub-tropical Port of Gladstone estuary.

  • Climate and bushfires

    To provide sound scientific advice on post-fire forest management in response to Australia’s catastrophic 2029-2020 Black Summer fire, the Griffith Climate Action Beacon, the Bushfire Recovery Project is a collaboration between the Australian National University and community volunteers in the Gondwana Link and the Great Eastern Ranges landscapes.

  • Cyclone resilience

    To increase the resilience of communities to future tropical cyclones, the Cyclone Testing Station of the JCU Centre for Disaster Studies is drawing upon decades of cyclone research to offer total cyclone resilience inspections for free to all Bodies Corporate in north Queensland eligible under the North Queensland Strata Title Inspection Program.

  • Fauna conservation

    The University of the Sunshine Coast (UniSC) Detection Dogs for Conservation is the only university research group which trains, tests and deploys detection dogs for conservation in Australia works with partners such as WWF, industry and governments.

  • AI robotics

    In a major contribution to protecting the world’s largest coral reef, the RangerBot AUV was developed by the QUT Centre for Robotics with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. The AI and vision-based robotic tool successfully delivers coral larvae to damaged reefs, monitors coral bleaching and maps and kills the Crown-Of-Thorns Starfish (COTS).

  • Pest control and the environment

    After a decade of research, a safe sustainable alternative to chemical pesticides that is effective against whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) which attacks 500 crops and costs billions of dollars, has been developed as part of UQ’s BioClay™ technology. The Centre for Horticultural Science and Nufarm Limited are now in field trials with several key crops.

  • Climate change adaptation

    Older people are more vulnerable to extreme and frequent heat episodes. Funded by Wellcome, researchers at Griffith Climate Action Beacon are working closely with older persons, their in-home carers and key organisations (e.g. COTA and QFES) on the EtHOs project to develop an individualised early warning system for older people living at home.

Contact the commercial partnership offices of Queensland universities and research institutes for details of their research-industry collaboration or investment opportunities.

Support for the environment and nature research in Queensland

USC - Professor of Microbiology Peter Timms - Koala chlamydia vaccine researchOpen larger image

Koala chlamydia vaccine researcher Prof. Peter Timms from Centre for Bioinnovation.

The Department of Environment and Science is the lead Queensland Government agency for legislative and management responsibility for environmental, species and ecosystem protection, research and monitoring, and climate change action.

Queensland has a strong network of volunteer and professional organisations supporting the management and protection of Queensland’s unique environment. There are 12 formal regional natural resource management bodies in Queensland responsible for delivery of regional-level NRM outcomes in partnership with industry, community and government. Queensland Water and Land Carers is the peak body for natural resource management volunteers consisting of 456 groups and 38,000 individuals.

There is also a network of local on-ground volunteer environment groups, regional conservation councils and the peak Queensland Conservation Council along with dozens of state-level organisations representing particular interests such as Birds Queensland. The citizen science movement, that involves the collection and analysis of scientific data by citizens in collaboration with scientists and field experts is very active with hundreds of citizen science projects operating in Queensland.

Coral Bleaching via Pulsed Inflation by Brett Lewis 2016Open larger image

Coral Bleaching via Pulsed Inflation - rapid expulsion of their algal symbionts during thermal stress in bleaching by Brett Lewis 2016, a QUT reef researcher

Photo credit: Brett Lewis 2016.

Advance Queensland is the key Queensland Government initiative (A$755 million as at July 2022) to foster innovation and build a more diversified economy. On offer is a diverse suite of programs designed to develop entrepreneurial and research talent, and to support start-ups and businesses including ongoing investment in Universities and researchers. The 2022 Industry Research Fellowship, for example, includes research using innovative methods to achieve a sustainable future including areas such as: managing Queensland’s waste and pollution and developing the circular economy; mitigating and preventing climate change; developing sustainable energy solutions and water solutions.

Griffith University - Johan Gustafson Open larger image

Marine biologist Johan Gustafson from the Griffith Coastal and Marine Research Centre specialises in shark ecology.

The Queensland and Australian governments have invested in significant infrastructure to support environmental research in Queensland including: the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Australia’s premiere tropical marine research agency; the Queensland and the Australian Tropical herbaria; the Australian Tropical Science and Innovation Precinct; and the Ecosciences Precinct.

Talent pipeline for environment and nature

Most Queensland universities manage major environment and nature research programs in dedicated research institutes and centres.

Environmental practioners can maintain their professional standing with the support of organisations such as the Environment Institute of Australia and New Zealand and their accreditation via the independent statutory body, the Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland that operates under the Professional Engineers Act

From their earliest years students in Queensland engage with STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) under the strategy for STEM in Queensland state schools and teachers access resources via the STEM Hub, the Queensland Virtual STEM Academy (QVSA) and the Queensland STEM Education Network provided by Queensland universities.

  • Queensland’s long coastline is the interface between land and marine ecosystems. Our researchers contribute to managing the coastal zone including how to protect areas while enabling their use.

    Queensland’s long coastline is the interface between land and marine ecosystems. Our researchers contribute to managing the coastal zone including how to protect areas while enabling their use.

  • Managing water quality and quantity is critical everywhere, and has resulted in Queensland developing expertise in water and wastewater management technologies and solutions, reef science.

    Managing water quality and quantity is critical everywhere, and has resulted in Queensland developing expertise in water and wastewater management technologies and solutions, reef science.

Environment and nature research centres

Strategic Visualisation Tool

Sustainable natural and managed ecosystems and the built environment

Traditional knowledge and biodiscovery in Queensland video

Watch the Traditional knowledge and biodiscovery in Queensland video to learn more about biodiscovery in Queensland and the importance of protecting traditional knowledge.

Water releases

Read how we monitor and track water releases.