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About us

We provide science based solutions to tackle critical environmental issue in tropical ecosystems. 

TropWATER, James Cook University’s Centre for Tropical Water and Aquatic Ecosystem Research, brings together over 150 leading researchers. We provide science-based solutions to industries, communities, and governments for managing, protecting, and restoring tropical ecosystems. 

Our mission

Our mission is to conduct influential research in water science, resource management, and aquatic ecology, focusing on sustainable use and preservation of water ecosystems. Our research covers water quality, fish and marine mammals, seagrass, coral reefs, mangroves, freshwater, estuarine and marine ecosystems, biosecurity and Indigenous training and capacity-building.

With a strong focus on tropical water systems in Australia and internationally, TropWATER uses the latest technologies and advanced research methods to addresses key issues, while balancing economic, social, and environmental needs.

TropWATER researchers

James Cook University

TropWATER is an amalgamation of aquatic expertise from across James Cook University. It brings together over 150 research and supporting staff and over 100 postgraduate students into one cohesive group.
This provides a unique opportunity for multidisciplinary research activities that integrate JCU’s aquatic expertise, spanning freshwater, estuarine, and marine waters, with expertise from ecology, water hydrology, engineering, physics, oceanography, modelling, and resource economics. 

TropWATER researcher and Traditional Owner

Who we work with

Our scientists take pride in maintaining and developing strong relationships with all levels of communities, governments, industries, First Nations people, and non-government organisations. 

Working together allows us to address environmental impacts of joint concern and achieve common goals to help create a more sustainable future in tropical environments.

Fish research

Traditional Owners and Indigenous Rangers

Traditional Owners and Indigenous Rangers are key partners in many ongoing TropWATER projects. Our collaborations include mapping seagrass and coral reefs on sea Country, conducting Traditional Owner-led dugong surveys, monitoring mangrove shorelines, performing eDNA monitoring of invasive species, and participating in wetland protection initiatives, among many other activities.


Our work with industry spans tourism, agriculture, mining, and ports. Examples include identifying management practices that improve water quality leaving farms, co-designing robust ecological monitoring programs to help companies proactively reduce risks of negatively impacting aquatic environments, and providing management tools for environmental protection of seagrass habitats.


We work with landholders, including cane farmers and graziers, to understand how, when, and where sediment and nutrients moves from the land into key catchments, reducing loads of fine sediment and nutrient reaching the Great Barrier Reef. This work helps growers adopt progressive practices to improve water quality. We also research the most effective methods to incentivise wetland and catchment restoration opportunities for landholders by leveraging ecosystem service markets.


Our work is instrumental in informing management and policymakers at local, state, and federal levels. We advise government on water quality conditions in the Great Barrier Reef, coastal restoration, blue carbon, dugong population dynamics, water security risks and seagrass health. We also advise defence management, providing critical insights for sustainable environmental management and policy development.

Conservationist and non-government organisations

We actively collaborate with conservationists and non-government organisations, including Greening Australia and Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, to advance environmental goals. These partnerships focus on restoration projects, citizen science programs, and advocacy efforts to promote sustainable practices and protect aquatic ecosystems.

Other universities and research institutions

We collaborate with various universities and research institutions across all our research fields. This includes partnerships with experts in genetics, water quality, e-DNA, and drone-based morphometrics. Our collaborations extend to CSIRO, AIMS, UQ, CQU, CDU, numerous State Government Departments and the CRC for Northern Australia, on diverse environmental projects.

Programs we host

TropWATER hosts several programs that support research, conservation, and management of aquatic ecosystems, with a focus on facilitating collaboration.

Mangrove research



MangroveWatch is a not-for-profit organisation that brings together scientists, Traditional Owners, community volunteers, government, and industry to advance the research, education, and conservation of mangrove and tidal wetland environments. MangroveWatch is an environmental health monitoring program for shorelines, encouraging community awareness and local environmental stewardship.



Raise awareness on the condition and trend of nearshore seagrass ecosystems, provide an early warning of major coastal environment changes and to protect the valuable seagrass meadows along our coasts. Seagrass-Watch Global Seagrass Observing Network (established in 1998) is a not-for-profit organisation that accurately monitors the status and trends in seagrass condition. The network has conducted over 5700 assessments at 418 sites across 26 countries, involving thousands of dedicated participants.


Australasian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network

The Australasian Mangrove and Saltmarsh Network was established in 2008 to connect individuals and organisations concerned about mangrove and saltmarsh intertidal wetland habitats in the region. The network promotes sustainable communication, collaboration, and community mentoring and participation in restoring and managing critically vulnerable intertidal wetlands.


Australian Coastal Restoration Network

The Australian Coastal Restoration Network connects marine and coastal restoration specialists, researchers, practitioners, and managers for collaboration and knowledge sharing to find solutions to challenges in coastal restoration and management. The Network provides networking opportunities and resources such as a database of coastal restoration projects across Australia and New Zealand.


Cairns-Port Douglas Reef Hub

The Cairns-Port Douglas Reef Hub is a collaborative network that connects individuals and organisations to share, learn, and collaborate on new approaches to care for reefs within the region. By strengthening collective capacity and driving solutions that benefit communities, the Hub aims to build more resilient coral reefs.

Our partners

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