The Australian Tropical Research Foundation (AUSTROP Foundation) is an independent, non-profit organization founded in 1992, which operates the Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station (CTTRS) at Cape Tribulation. Cape Tribulation is about 120km north of Cairns. It is in the Daintree tropical lowlands, considered to be the “jewel” of the Australian Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. This is a very special area of rainforest sandwiched between the coastal fringing reef (and the Great Barrier Reef) and the coastal mountain range. The area has a wide variety of habitats from coastal reefs to tropical rainforest. The Research Station is a research and conservation organisation that specialises in lowland tropical ecosystems, in particular those of the Daintree tropical lowlands.

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The Station


The Australian Tropical Research Foundation (AUSTROP) is a research and conservation organization in Cape Tribulation, Australia, that specialises in lowland tropical ecosystems, in particular those of the Daintree lowlands. It has been in operation for over 27 years.

The Cape Tribulation Tropical Research Station (CTTRS) was established in 1988 by Hugh Spencer and Brigitta Flick in the wake of the Daintree Blockade (1984) which drew world attention to the plight of the area and to its highly vulnerable conservation status.

The Bat House


Many visitors to Cape Tribulation will leave shaking their heads in amazement after having met one of the more fascinating inhabitants of the rainforest - a flying fox. As rainforest ambassadors, they are unrivalled - friendly, intelligent and definitely with personality plus. They are great show-stoppers and crowd pleasers, and great for getting visitors to start asking questions about the rainforests (as well as losing their fear of bats).

Metsulfuron-methyl impact on native vegetation in the Daintree lowlands


by Dr Hugh Spencer

As part of a control program for Singapore Daisy Sphagneticola (Wedelia) triblobata, using metsulfuron-methyl herbicide, in the lowland tropical environments of the Daintree, we needed to assess the impact of the herbicide on native vegetation, as the extensive nature of the weed invasion prevented selective application. We assessed the impact on 80 native species exposed to the herbicide of which 62 were resistant, and 18 were killed after a spray application that would reliably kill the Singapore daisy plants. The native sensitive species by and large were soft leaved pioneer species that could readily re-colonize the area once the Singapore daisy had been removed. This resistance permits a far easier approach to control, as the extreme care that is usually required to avoid spraying native seedlings, can be greatly relaxed. Additionally metsulfuron-methyl is proving to be a highly effective herbicide for controlling an unusually wide variety of other environmental weeds, including Lantana and Syngonium, in the region.

Renewable Energy RAPS Systems in the Daintree Lowlands

Daintree RAPS survey

by Dr Hugh Spencer

Lead acid batteries are the storage mainstay of renewable energy systems. The technology has been in existence for over a century, and except in details, is essentially unchanged. Basically it consists of two plates of lead bathed in dilute sulphuric acid. Charging (passing an electric current between the plates) converts the plate on one side to lead dioxide and the other plate to spongy lead. Discharging converts both plates to lead sulphate, and in the process generates an electric current in an external circuit. This cycle can be repeated for hundreds and in some cases thousands of times before there is no more lead sulphate available to be converted, at which time the battery is totally useless.

A Brief History of the Daintree Lowland Rainforest

Daintree rainforest by Shichahn

by Dr Hugh Spencer

Home to the southern cassowary, one of the world's largest flightless birds, crocodiles, fruit bats and a host of other animals and plants, the Daintree lowlands have become one of Australia’s most beautiful icons.

With an unbroken history of over 100 million years, the tropical rainforests of the Daintree lowlands are, miraculously, still surviving and inspiring people such as Robin. However their future is, like so much of the world's remaining rainforests, dire. The Daintree lowlands, for that is the really unique and unprotected area, is under immediate threat from, not logging, but piecemeal development.

New Stinging-tree Treatment

Stinging tree

Stinging Trees - and a NEW Treatment for stings

Stinging trees (Gympie-Gympie) are the bane of people in the Australian tropical and sub-tropical coastal areas - especially after disturbances such as cyclones, which trigger the germination of seeds. It becomes quite an issue when children wander into small plants - and are really badly stung.

There are four common types of Australian stinging trees. Two are large rainforest trees growing up to 30 to 35 m. The other two are really little more than bushes growing up to 3 or 4m tall but often seen as a shrub 0.1 to 1m tall. The sting inflicted by the smaller species are by far the most painful. The poison from the smaller species is the most virulent and because of their size people are more likely to blunder into them. All four are closely related and belong to the same family as the common stinging nettles.

(Urticaceae). In Australia the common native nettle is Urtica inscisa.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatment

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Capsaicin – is it the magic bullet for Trigeminal Neuralgia?

I have been feeling more than a little guilty about the fact that I haven’t taken the time to post this much earlier … I have been looking through the various blogs and information sites on Trigeminal neuralgia in the last couple of days (Feb 2010) – and nothing seems to have changed at all in the past 10 years! In fact, the dominant paradigm for treating TGN seems to be a total reliance on surgical intervention, which is exceedingly worrying - and probably totally unnecessary.

So I am posting my experiences with trigeminal neuralgia and my highly successful treatment of it, for the benefit of other sufferers.

Phenology of Ficus variegata in a Seasonal Wet Tropical Forest at Cape Tribulation, Australia

Ficus variegata

Phenology of Ficus variegata in a Seasonal Wet Tropical Forest at Cape Tribulation, Australia, by Hugh Spencer, George Weiblen and Brigitta Flick © 1996 Blackwell Publishing.


We studied the phenology of 198 mature trees of the dioecious fig Ficus variegata Blume (Moraceae) in a seasonally wet tropical rain forest at Cape Tribulation, Australia, from March 1988 to February 1993.

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