Professor Crayn’s career has involved studies of the origins, evolution and classification of plants and deals broadly with the questions: how many plant species exist, where do they occur, how are they related and how have they evolved?

These objectives have taken him to a broad range of biomes and countries including the Republic of Panama, Venezuela, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Malaysia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Since March 2008, Darren has been the inaugural Director of the Australian Tropical Herbarium, a joint venture between James Cook University, CSIRO and the Queensland Government.

  • BZ3620: Tropical Flora of Australia (Level 3; CNS)
  • BZ5620: Tropical Flora of Australia (Level 5; CNS)
  • BZ5650: Australian Land Plants: Recognition, Evolution and Diversity (Level 5; TSV)
  • discovering, naming and classifying new plant species and determining the evolutionary relationships among them
  • mapping the distribution of ecosystems, species and genetic variation within species across the landscape,
  • developing DNA-based tools and ‘matrix keys’ for species identification and rapid biodiversity inventory
  • uncovering the deep-time origins and ancient migration pathways of plants that are found in tropical Australia today
Research Disciplines
Socio-Economic Objectives
  • 1998 to 2000 - Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
  • 2014 - Centre for Tropical Biodiversity and Climate Change Management Committee
  • 2013 - Australian Orchid Foundation Research Committee
  • 2012 - Australian Barcode of Life Network Steering Committee
  • 2011 - Wet Tropics Management Authority Scientific Advisory Committee
  • 2011 - Tropical Indigenous Ethnobotany Centre - Coordinating Committee member
  • 2010 - Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
  • 2009 - Daintree Rainforest Observatory Scientific Committee
  • 2011 to 2014 - National Environmental Research Program, Tropical Ecosystems Hub Rainforest Working Group
  • 2009 to 2014 - Australian Biological Resources Study Advisory Committee
  • 2009 - Herbarium NE International Review Panel
  • 1997 - National Biodiversity Council
  • 2012 to 2014 - Chair, Australian Biological Resources Study Research Subcommittee, Advisory Committee
  • 2005 to 2008 - Australian Systematic Botany Society - Vice President
  • 2003 to 2005 - Australian Systematic Botany Society - Councillor

These are the most recent publications associated with this author. To see a detailed profile of all publications stored at JCU, visit ResearchOnline@JCU. Hover over Altmetrics badges to see social impact.

Journal Articles
Book Chapters

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 67+ research outputs authored by Prof Darren Crayn from 2001 onwards.

Current Funding

Current and recent Research Funding to JCU is shown by funding source and project.

Ian Potter Foundation - Science

Securing the future of Australia?s threatened tropical mountain flora for science and society

Indicative Funding
$500,000 over 5 years, in partnership with the Wet Tropics Management Authority ($50,000 over 5 yrs)
This project will enable us to secure the future of Australia?s climate-threatened tropical mountaintop plants. We will do this by building a multi-strategy ex-situ conservation reserve to `backup? at-risk wild populations and support research, display and education. Our novel research on seed banking strategies, genetic diversity and plant tolerance of extreme climates will ensure that the reserve collections, distributed across multiple Botanic Gardens and Seed Banks along Australia?s east coast, incorporate high redundancy, are genetically and physiologically diverse, and climatically matched to wild habitat.
Darren Crayn in collaboration with Stuart Worboys, Lucas Cernusak, Alex Cheesman, Arun Singh Ramesh, Lydia Guja, David Taylor, Karen Sommerville, Cathy Offord, Maurizio Rossetto, Warren Worboys, David Warmington, Russell Joshua, Jason Halford and Andrew Rouse (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies, College of Science & Engineering, Australian National Botanic Gardens, The Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Cairns Botanic Gardens, Mossman Botanic Gardens, Brisbane Botanic Gardens and Australian Rhododendron Society)
plant conservation; plant physiology; botanic gardens; genetics; climate change; extinction

Department of the Environment and Energy - National Taxonomy Research Grant program

Making headway with Ericaceae ? a contribution toward a Flora of Australia account of Epacridoideae

Indicative Funding
$210,000 over 3 years
Generic boundaries in the predominantly Australian subfamily Epacridoideae (Ericaceae; c. 580 Australian taxa) have recently been resolved following many years of phylogenetic research, paving the way for the description of undescribed species and a Flora of Australia treatment. This project will complete part of such a treatment by formalizing generic-level nomenclature, describing 25 new species and completing species profiles for all capsular-fruited taxa (c. 150 species). This research will aid conservation efforts, particularly in south-western Australia, where there is a high level of diversity, with many species subject to multiple threats.
Darren Crayn in collaboration with Fanie Venter, Caroline Puente-Lelievre, Jeremy Bruhl, Rose Andrew, Ron Crowden and Ian Telford (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies, United States Department of Agriculture and The University of New England)
taxonomy; flora; systematics; new species; Australia; epacrid

Department of the Environment and Energy - National Taxonomy Research Grant program

Integrating phylogenomics and taxonomy ? resolving the complex evolution of the Donkey Orchids (Diuris) for the Flora of Australia

Indicative Funding
$270,000 over 3 years
This study aims to unravel the complex relationships in the Australian orchid genus Diuris for a well-founded treatment in the Flora of Australia. Evolutionary relationships of Diuris will be reconstructed at subgeneric, sectional and interspecific levels based on data set from the plastid and nuclear genomes. Population genomic analysis of two species complexes will allow for clarifying species delimitations and re-assessing the conservation status of threatened Diuris species. The taxonomic utility of morphological characters will be evaluated and improved identification keys and revised taxonomic concepts for Diuris generated for a revised treatment of the genus in the Flora of Australia.
Lars Nauheimer, Darren Crayn, Mark Clements and Katharina Nargar (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies, College of Science & Engineering and Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation)
Diuris (Orchidaceae); Next generation sequencing; Hybridization; Phylogenetics; Species delimitation; Target capture

Australia & Pacific Science Foundation - The Australia Pacific Science Hermon Slade Research Fund

Next generation systematics for Nepenthes Pitcher Plants

Indicative Funding
$43,717 over 3 years
The carnivorous pitcher plant genus Nepenthes comprises c.160 species distributed throughout the Southeast Asia and Oceania. Species have traditionally been distinguished using morphological characteristics, but many recently described species have been distinguished on the basis of minor differences, whose stability has been questioned. To date, no taxonomically informative molecular phylogeny of Nepenthes has been published. The lack of an objective taxonomic framework has hindered efforts of biologists who seek to study and conserve threatened Nepenthes. This study seeks to eliminate this problem using next generation sequencing methods to construct a robust, informative phylogeny of Nepenthes based on c. 100 species.
Darren Crayn in collaboration with Charles Clarke and Katharina Schulte (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies)
Phylogeny; Systematics; Nepenthes; Pitcher plant; Next Generation Sequencing; Evolution

Bio-Gene Technology Ltd - Contract Research

Micropropagation of Eucalyptus cloeziana chemovar

Indicative Funding
$50,000 over 2 years
This project will establish a methodology to produce clonal plants of a eucalypt that is being trialled as a natural source of a new insecticide.
Darren Crayn in collaboration with Usana Nantawan (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies)
Eucalyptus cloeziana; Myrtaceae; micropropagation; Horticulture; insecticide; Tree Improvement

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund - Grant

Documenting Indigenous Plant Knowledge to Strengthen Conservation Management in Kwaio, Solomon Islands

Indicative Funding
The project is designed to deliver ongoing capacity-strengthening activities and training in project management, organizational governance and financial management to enhance local conservation efforts in the central mountains of the island of Malaita, Solomon Islands. Our larger goals include setting up a Kwaio CSO to manage conservation activities in the area (see ?Project Objectives? below), protect and conserve priority species on Malaita, and in the longer-term, work toward creating Protected Areas to protect globally threatened species. We also hope the project will serve as a conservation model for other Malaitan and Solomon Islands communities. The project is taking place with people of the Kwaio language group. The mountain Kwaio people are the largest Solomon Islands group still practicing their indigenous ancestral religion. The biodiversity conservation project is documenting the deep local knowledge of medicinal plants and bush foods found in the rainforest of Malaita, and building capacity to undertake similar projects in the future.
David MacLaren, Esau Kekeubata, John Laete?esafi, Jackson Waneagea, David Akin, Humpress Harrington, James Asugeni, Tommy Esau, Peter Massey, Michelle Redman-MacLaren, Ben Speare, Darren Crayn and Frank Zich (College of Medicine & Dentistry, Kwainaa Cultural Centre, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Pacific Adventist University (Atoifi Campus), Atoifi Adventist Hospital, New South Wales Health, Tropical Health Solutions Pty Ltd, College of Science & Engineering and Division of Tropical Environments & Societies)
Kwaio; Traditional Medicine; Solomon Islands; Medicinal Plants; Traditional Knowledge; Biodiversity Conservation

Australian Research Council - Discovery - Projects

Australia's distinctive succulent flora

Indicative Funding
$364,400 over 3 years
We will investigate why Australia, the driest vegetated continent, has no landscape dominated by large succulents but nevertheless supports a distinctive, diverse and widespread succulent flora. Focusing on terrestrial succulents and epiphytic orchids, we will explore the evolution, assembly and biodiversity of Australia?s succulent flora, evaluating the roles of genetic composition, photosynthetic physiology, aridity, fire, soil nutrients and salinity in its historical expansion, and assessing the resilience of the assemblages to changing climate. Of particular interest will be how the most water-use efficient type of photosynthesis, crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM), is expressed across the succulent landscape.
Joe Holtum, Mike Crisp, Darren Crayn, Erika Edwards, Klaus Winter and Rowan Sage (College of Science & Engineering, Australian National University, Division of Tropical Environments & Societies, Brown University, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Toronto)
succulents; succulent flora; epiphytic orchids

Department of the Environment and Energy - Australian Biological Resources Study - Student Travel Bursary

New Guinea a major generator of Australian and Southeast Asian plant diversity: evidence from multi-lineage analysis of diversification through time

Indicative Funding
I am investigating the origins of the northern Australian flora, and specifically, the exchange of flora with Southeast Asia when Australia collided with the Eurasian plate approximately 25 Mya. This exchange was key in shaping Australia?s northern flora, however the patterns, dynamics and extent of its contribution is poorly understood. Using a comparative phylogenetic approach, I aim to characterise the contribution and timing of exchange, establish whether the exchange was directionally biased, identify dispersal tracks of Asian taxa through northern Australia, and investigate underlying dispersal mechanisms. This research can inform conservation decisions and enhance understanding of evolutionary processes across Australasia.
Elizabeth Joyce and Darren Crayn (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies)
Sunda; Sahul; Australasia; origin; evolution; phylogenetic

Cape York Natural Resource Management Ltd - Contract Research

Kimba Grass Guide

Indicative Funding
This project will produce a series of fact sheets to help land managers and the public identify grasses of the Kimba Plateau (Olkola Country), Cape York Peninsula. The outcomes will be useful to everyone who manages land in Olkola country and needs to determine what grasses are present on their land and whether they are palatable, productive or weeds. This project builds on a completed project on the grasses of Quinkan country toward a future complete guide to grasses of Cape York Peninsula.
Raelee Kerrigan and Darren Crayn (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies)
Grasses; Cape York Peninsula; Taxonomy

Department of the Environment and Energy - Director of National Parks - Contract Research

Quinkan BushBlitz

Indicative Funding
This project involves surveys on remote sandstone country on Cape York, with the purpose of discovering new species of plants. All discoveries will be written upin the scientific and popular literature and media. The data gathered will contribute significantly to the knowledge of the biodiversity of tropical Australia and will underpin effective management and conservation planning.
Darren Crayn in collaboration with Stuart Worboys (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies)
Quinkan Ctenotus; Species Discovery; Ecology; Cape York Peninsula; Taxonomy

Cape York Natural Resource Management Ltd - Contract Research

Quinkan Grass Guide

Indicative Funding
This project will produce a series of fact sheets to help land managers and the public identify grasses of Quinkan country, Cape York Peninsula The outcomes will be useful to everyone who manages land in the Quinkan area and needs to determine what grasses are present on their land and whether they are palatable, productive or weeds. This is a pilot project for a future complete guide to grasses of Cape York Peninsula.
Darren Crayn in collaboration with Raelee Kerrigan (Division of Tropical Environments & Societies)
Grasses; Taxonomy; Cape York Penninsula

Skyrail Rainforest Foundation - Research Funding

Phylogeny and Biogeography of Australian Garcinia (Clusiaceae)

Indicative Funding
This project will analyse the affinity of close related taxa within Garcinia in Australia. The analysis will use the platform of DArT? Analysis established by DArT? Company, Canberra. The DNA samples will be prepared in high quality and quantity templates to allow the restriction enzyme recognises and cuts the restriction sites in the whole genome. The restriction sites will be analysed using DArT? protocol and software which the in final result will produce DArT? sequence analysis. This final result will show the affinity of the taxa which can also be used to analyse how the genetic varieties occur such as the shape of the fruits, the colour of the flowers and other minute morphological characters.
Rismita Sari, Sandra Abell, Darren Crayn, Natalie Dillon and Paul Gadek (College of Science & Engineering)
Garcinia; Clusianeae; Phylogeny; Mangosteen; Biogeography; Septogarcinia sumbawaensis

Advisory Accreditation: I can be on your Advisory Panel as a Primary or Secondary Advisor.

These Higher Degree Research projects are either current or by students who have completed their studies within the past 5 years at JCU. Linked titles show theses available within ResearchOnline@JCU.

  • An Assessment of Monotypic Genus Septogarcinia Kosterm., Australian Garcinia, Hybridization, Biogeography and Evolution in Garcinia (Clusiaceae) (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Phylogenomic Insights into the Spatio-temporal Evolution of Australasian Bulbophyllum (Orchidaceae) (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Vegetation Communities of Cape Your Peninsula: Evaluating Queensland's Regional Ecosystem Classification (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Are Mountain-Top Endemic Plants Constrained in their Distributions by Physiology? (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Systematics and Evolution of the Genus Elaeocarpus L. (Elaeocarpaceae) (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Origins of the Northern Australian Flora: Role of the Sunda-Sahul Floristic Exchange (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)
  • Fruit development in Theobroma cacao: understanding the limitations to optimized cacao production. (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Biodiversity and Phylogeography of Mountain-top fungi (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM)

The map shows research collaborations by institution from the past 7 years.
Note: Map points are indicative of the countries or states that institutions are associated with.

  • 5+ collaborations
  • 4 collaborations
  • 3 collaborations
  • 2 collaborations
  • 1 collaboration
  • Indicates the Tropics (Torrid Zone)

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