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.

  • 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 93+ 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.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation - Reef Trust Partnership

Island Habitat Monitoring - Vegetation

Indicative Funding
$119,790 over 3 years (administered by Department of Environment and Science)
Islands, particularly the remote or less-accessible ones, have very poor inventories of species and ecosystems, their condition and potential threats. This base level data is required to identify which values should be prioritised for management and monitoring. A process to identify and prioritise information gaps and fill them is needed to address this issue. The Australian Tropical Herbarium proposes to address these knowledge gaps through provision of technical expertise that can include (a) field survey, (b) provision of plant identification services, (c) training and (d) data management.
Darren Crayn, Stuart Worboys, Eda Addicott, Mark Newton and Matt Barrett (Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Great Barrier Reef; vegetation; biodiversity; islands; flora; training

Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service - Contract Research

Island Arks GBR Regional Ecosystem mapping

Indicative Funding
$330,000 over 1 year
The Queensland Government has committed to expand Queensland?s protected area estate on islands in the GBR. To deliver this commitment, the Great Barrier Reef Island Arks Acquisition Project has been established. This project will contribute information on regional ecosystems of selected islands targeted for acquisition, providing improved conservation outcomes, opportunities to work with Traditional Owners to co-manage key ecological and cultural sites, and promote new ecotourism offerings.
Darren Crayn, Stuart Worboys and Eda Addicott (Australian Tropical Herbarium and Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Great Barrier Reef; vegetation; biodiversity; islands; flora

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - National Taxonomy Research Grant Program

Progressing a Flora of Australia treatment of Ericaceae subfamily Epacridoideae

Indicative Funding
$185,692 over 3 years
Generic boundaries in the predominantly Australian Ericaceae subfamily Epacridoideae (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. We have completed the first part of such a treatment: species profiles and a LucID key of all 152 species of the capsular fruited taxa (tribes Archerieae, Cosmelieae, Epacrideae, Prionoteae, and Richeeae). The proposed project will complete the second part by describing 10 new species and completing species profiles and keys for 180 species of the remaining two tribes: Oligarrheneae and Styphelieae. 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 and David Albrecht (Australian Tropical Herbarium and Centre for Australian National Biodiversity)
Ericaceae; Taxonomy; Systematics; Classification; Conservation

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

Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment - Australian National Botanic Gardens

Australian National Botanic Gardens plant Collecting.

Indicative Funding
Recently, the Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) suffered significant losses of propagated materials when environmental controllers in their propagation houses failed. The ANBG wishes to replace the lost materials with horticulturally and scientifically attractive plants collected from the rainforests of Queensland?s Wet Tropics bioregion.
Darren Crayn in collaboration with Stuart Worboys (Australian Tropical Herbarium)
Botanic Gardens; Rainforest; Conservation

Palladium Pty Ltd - Australia Pacific Climate Partnership

Traditional Knowledge about Climate and Food Security in Kwaio, Malaita, Solomon Islands

Indicative Funding
$95,000 over 1 year
This project will be implemented in conjunction with Baru Conservation Alliance in Malaita, Solomon Islands. Traditional Knowledge and experience of weather, the seasonal interaction of plants, animals and people will be explored and documented. The use of tradiitional 'disaster food' after natural disasters will also be documented. The local scale production of flour from locally grown fuits and vegetables will be piloted; usage and spoilage monitored, and dishes made from flour trialled for acceptability and feasibility with Kwaio tribal groups. The project links food security, health and ecological sustainability to inform local level disaster and climate resilience measures in Malaita, Solomon Islands.
David MacLaren, Karen Cheer, Michelle Redman-MacLaren, Colin MacGregor and Darren Crayn in collaboration with Tommy Esau, Esau Kekeubata, Dorothy Esau, Maasafi Alabai, Paul Flemons, Tyrone Lavery and Rebecca Johnson (College of Medicine & Dentistry, College of Science & Engineering, Australian Tropical Herbarium, Baru Conservation Alliance, Australian Museum, Australian National University and Smithsonian Institute)
Solomon Islands; Baru Conservation Alliance; Climate Resilience; Food Security; Disaster Preparedness; Traditional Knowledge

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

Bio-Gene Technology Ltd - Contract Research

Micropropagation of Eucalyptus cloeziana chemovar.

Indicative Funding
$170,000 over 5 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

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 4 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

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.

  • 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)
  • Functional variation of plants along elevation gradients in tropical forest communities of Papua New Guinea (PhD , Secondary Advisor)
  • Biodiversity and Phylogeography of Mountain-top fungi (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • An Assessment of Monotypic Genus Septogarcinia Kosterm., Australian Garcinia, Hybridization, Biogeography and Evolution in Garcinia (Clusiaceae) (PhD , Primary Advisor/AM/Adv)
  • Fruit development in Theobroma cacao: understanding the limitations to optimized cacao production. (PhD , Advisor Mentor)
  • Ethnobotany and drug discovery of Mbabaram Aboriginal medicinal plants (Masters , Advisor Mentor)

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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