About the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Earth and Environmental Sciences at JCU is located in Townsville and Cairns, central to the Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropical Rainforests World Heritage Areas, and at the gateway to the world class mineral fields of NE Australia, Papua New Guinea and the West Pacific.

The school is proud of its multi-disciplinary approach, its international outlook, and its extensive network of collaborations with private and government organisations, linked to a strong research tradition and a dynamic learning environment. These attributes ensure that the School is a major contributor to the University’s reputation and listing in the TOP 4% of the World's Universities, and an important factor in our success in producing informed, effective and skilled graduates.

Earth and Environmental Sciences at JCU is a leading research entity, and plays a vital role in maintaining and enhancing the University’s international profile.The School’s strategic intent is to be the top research and education centre for the study of Earth and Environmental Sciences in the tropics, and to provide high-quality, internationally competitive courses that reflect the unique environment represented by northern Australia and the SW Pacific region. To this end the School aims to expand knowledge and understanding of the Earth’s complex systems, its natural resources and human interaction with the physical and biological environment, to promote responsible Earth stewardship.

School Profile

Staff and students

School Structure

The School has 30 academic staff, 25 research staff, and 44 Adjunct and Associate staff;

Atotal of 1,387 students are enrolled in the School (977 in Townsville; 410 in Cairns) including 136 study abroad students who spend up to one semester at JCU;

The School enrolls 267 postgraduate students including 116 research MSc or PhD students; about 50% of postgraduate students are international students from the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific;

Professor Michael Bird is one of a few Federation Fellows in Queensland– recognition of his international profile and esteemed research contributions.


The major research and teaching disciplines in the school are:

  • Economic Geology and Mineral Exploration

  • Environmental Earth Sciences

  • Environmental Sciences and Natural Resource Management

  • Fisheries Science and Management

  • Geography and Spatial Sciences

  • Geology, Geodynamics and Tectonics

  • Tropical Urban and Regional Planning

With world recognized programs in Economic geology, the School is one of three major training centres in economic geology and mineral exploration in Australia, and hosts one of three nodes in the national Minerals Geoscience Masters program;

The School hosts an internationally recognized Masters of Development Practice degree, focused on the AustralAsian region and funded by the MacArthur Foundation;

Numerous field-based teaching courses are available reflecting our unique tropical location, with access to marine and coastal environments, and the vast continental interior;

Excellent infrastructure for teaching and research exists and includes: the Advanced Analytical Centre, a Water Quality laboratory, Orpheus Island Research Station, the research vessel James Kirby (~ 20 m long and managed by the School), the Paluma forest research station the Roxmere Field Camp (NW Queensland) and the Australian Canopy Crane Research Facility.


The School hosts high-quality, nationally and internationally recognised research entities including the Centre for Disaster Studies, the Centre for Tropical Urban and Regional Planning, the Fishing and Fisheries Research Centre, and the Economic Geology Research Unit;

The School has an outstanding publication rate (>135 substantive items in 2008), and in the past few years staff in the School have written or contributed to a number of Book Publications such as:

  • Climate Change and the Great Barrier Reef; a Vulnerability Assessment

  • Communities Living with Hazards

  • Extreme Events – A Physical reconstruction and Risk Assessment

  • Living in a Dynamic Tropical forest Landscape

  • Mine Wastes – Characterization, Treatment and Environmental Impacts

  • The Geomorphology of the Great Barrier Reef: Development, Diversity and Change

  • The Impacts of Climate Change on Australian tourism Destinations: Developing adaptation and response strategies – a scoping study.

JCU ranked number two in the Australian University in ISI rankings (citations) for Ecology and Environment – with important contributions from the School;

JCU ranked number twelve in the Australian University in ISI rankings (citations) for Geosciences – largely due to this school’s productivity;

The School is a major contributorto 3 out of 5 JCU Areas of Research Strength – Earth Sciences, Tropical Biology and Conservation, and Identity and Place;

World recognized research teams focus on the biology, conservation and management of fish, sharks, marine mammals and sea turtles.


With its applied focus on science the school maintains strong involvement with a wide range of governmental and non-governmental organizations in Australia such as Natural Resource Management Boards, CSIRO and the Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries;

Staff actively collaborate with the JCU/CSIRO Tropical Landscapes Joint Venture under the auspices of Australian Tropical Forests Institute on the Cairns campus and the Australian Tropical Sciences and Innovation Precinct on the Townsville campus;

The School undertakes commissioned research and collaborative projects for Local State and Federal government as well as local and international non-governmental agencies.Consultancies and enabling technologies are also done in collaboration with industry.For example advice to the mining industry on locating new mineral deposits, and remediation of mine wastes;

The School has a commitment to indigenous education and research partnerships in indigenous communities especially in Torres Strait, Cape York, and the Townsville and Cairns regions;

Staff provide expertise-based input to management of the environment, serving on numerous state, national and international advisory boards, committees and panels;

Strong involvement with Australia’s Integrated Marine Observation System nodes such as the Australian Coastal Radar Network (ACORN) and the Australian Acoustic Tracking and Monitoring System (AATAMS).

The Federal and State Governments have appointed Prof. Peter Valentine to the Chair of the Wet Tropics Management;

About James Cook University
- Townsville Campus
- Cairns Campus

Life in the tropics:
- Townsville - what's it like?
- Cairns - what's it like?

Ref JCUPRD1_066049