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
  • 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

ResearchOnline@JCU stores 81+ 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.

Australian Research Council - Linkage - Projects

Integrating climate adaptation into rainforest restoration plantings

Indicative Funding
$410,237 over 3 years, in partnership with Australian Genome Research Facility ($15,000)
This project aims to investigate the impact of within species adaptation to climate on reforestation success in the Australian Wet Tropics. For a suite of six species of tropical tree frequently employed in rainforest restoration plantings in northeast Queensland, we will test the hypothesis that collecting seed from populations in similar ecoclimatic settings to the planting site will result in superior seedling growth and survival. The results of the study will allow us to provide practical advice to reforestation practitioners about the importance of matching the provenance of seed source to planting sites, and opportunities for selecting provenances pre-adapted to predicted future climatic conditions at planting sites.
Lucas Cernusak, Martin Breed, Susan Laurance and Darren Crayn in collaboration with Alexander Cheesman, Maurizio Rossetto, Christopher Noune and Kenneth Chan (College of Science & Engineering, Flinders University, University of Exeter, Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust and Australian Genome Research Facility)
Restoration; Microbiome; Ecophysiology; Common garden; Adaptation; Rainforest

HLB Mann Judd Australasian Association - Donation

Mountain plant conservation

Indicative Funding
$3,000 over 5 years
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 (Australian Tropical Herbarium)
plant conservation; Extinction; Climate Change; Genetics

National Health & Medical Research Council - Ideas Grants

Discovering novel drug lead molecules for inflammatory bowel disease from Australian Aboriginal tropical medicinal plants

Indicative Funding
$1,209,524 over 4 years
Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a debilitating disease, which has no cure. It costs the Australian Health System billions of dollars in hospitalisation, management and lost productivity, thereby precipitating the need for novel drugs. Building on my extensive preliminary data, we aim to discover novel drug leads from Aboriginal medicinal plants, which are currently used for treating inflammatory conditions by the Mbabaram community of the Atherton Tablelands.
Phurpa Wangchuk, Roland Ruscher, Joanne Jamie, Stephen Pyne, Darren Crayn and Gerald Turpin (Australian Institute of Tropical Health & Medicine, Macquarie University, University of Wollongong, College of Science & Engineering and Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Aboriginal medicinal plants; Anti-inflammatory activities; Inflammatory Bowel Disease; Biologically active molecules; New drug leads; Metabolomics

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)
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 (Australian Tropical Herbarium, 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

The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria - Genomics for Australian Plants (GAP)

Genomics for Australian Plants ? Phylogenomics Project

Indicative Funding
$81,000 over 2 years
The Genomics for Australian Plants initiative aims to develop genomics resources to enhance our understanding of the evolution and conservation of the unique Australian flora. We will (1) sequence and assemble representative Australian plant genomes across the plant tree of life to enable better conservation, utilisation and understanding of Australia?s unique plant diversity; (2) build genomic capacity across Australian Botanic Gardens and Herbaria to create networks collaborating in the collection, management, dissemination and application of genomic data for Australian plants; and (3) provide tools to enable genetic data to be used to identify and classify biodiversity at a range of scales and to use these tools to inform conservation management and enable better decision making.
Darren Crayn in collaboration with Lalita Simpson (Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Plant genomics; Phylogeny

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 (Australian Tropical Herbarium, 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 (Australian Tropical Herbarium, College of Science & Engineering and Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation)
Diuris (Orchidaceae); Next generation sequencing; Hybridization; Phylogenetics; Species delimitation; Target capture

Forney Enterprises - Contract Research

Improving Kava production efficiency through genetics

Indicative Funding
$49,000 over 1 year
This project aims to improve the efficiency of kava (Piper methysticum) production by helping develop a test to distinguish between `noble? and `two-day? kava varieties. We will assess genetic diversity in wild and cultivated samples from across Vanuatu, and look for genetic markers that are unique to one variety or the other. This will improve the ability of kava growers and processors to produce consistently high quality product to help meet growing demand internationally.
Darren Crayn and Natalie Dillon (Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Kava; crop selection; Genetics; piper methysticum (piperaceae)

Bio-Gene Technology Ltd - Contract Research

Micropropagation of Eucalyptus cloeziana chemovar

Indicative Funding
$90,000 over 3 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 and Melissa Harrison (Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Eucalyptus cloeziana; Myrtaceae; micropropagation; Horticulture; insecticide; Tree Improvement

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

Next generation systematics for Nepenthes Pitcher Plants

Indicative Funding
$43,717 over 4 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 (Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Phylogeny; Systematics; Nepenthes; Pitcher plant; Next Generation Sequencing; Evolution

Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund - Grant

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

Indicative Funding
$26,184 over 3 years
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 Australian Tropical Herbarium)
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 4 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, Australian Tropical Herbarium, Brown University, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Toronto)
succulents; succulent flora; epiphytic orchids

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)
  • The Gamba Grass (Andropogon gayanus) Invasion of Tropical Northern Australia (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Are Mountain-Top Endemic Plants Constrained in their Distributions by Physiology? (PhD , Secondary Advisor/AM)
  • Integrating Climate Adaptation into Rainforest Restoration Plantings (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Biodiversity and Phylogeography of Mountain-top fungi (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Systematics and Evolution of the Genus Elaeocarpus L. (Elaeocarpaceae) (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Ethnobotany and drug discovery of Mbabaram Aboriginal medicinal plants (Masters , Advisor Mentor)
  • Fruit development in Theobroma cacao: understanding the limitations to optimized cacao production. (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Origins of the Northern Australian Flora: Role of the Sunda-Sahul Floristic Exchange (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)

These are the most recent metadata records associated with this researcher. To see a detailed description of all dataset records, visit Research Data Australia.


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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