JCU Orpheus Island Research Station

11 May 2021

What is the JCU Orpheus Island Research Station?

Studying on a piece of island paradise? Nope, it’s not too good to be true.

orpheus island research centre
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The James Cook University Orpheus Island Research Station (OIRS) is just that place. From historic shipwrecks and Indigenous sites to reef flats and mangroves, Orpheus is your gateway to experiencing a range of habitats. Fringing and mid shelf reefs, intertidal zones, forests, and grass plains await!

About Orpheus and the OIRS facilities
Orpheus Island is one of the granitic, continental Palm Islands, located about 125 km north of Townsville and 16 nautical miles from the mainland.

The JCU research facilities are built within a 2.692-hectare site of land leased from Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services on the western side of the island. Of that space, an impressive 70% of the area remains in natural or near natural condition.

The built facilities are comprised of 57 guest accommodation units, toilet facilities, freshwater tanks, aquaria, wet and dry laboratories, generators, and fuel storage facilities. A variety of scuba and snorkeling equipment are also housed on site for underwater exploration. Overall, there is plenty of equipment and space to research the incredible environment surrounding you!

It’s no surprise that given this unique environment and exceptional research facilities, Orpheus is the site of many impressive and unique studies. Dedicated Orpheus researchers use the inshore reefs and islands, climate-controlled research rooms, wet laboratories, a versatile saltwater aquarium system, and six aquarium raceways for a variety of research projects:

  • The recovery of benthic communities from severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi
  • The role of herbivores in phase shifts
  • Interrelationships of fish and coral
  • Habitat use of sharks and rays
  • Coral disease, bleaching, and genetics
  • The impact of stress on the calcifying machinery of corals
  • The effect of sedimentation on sponges

Explore Orpheus for yourself with Live Cams
Even on the other side of the world you can see what’s happening on and around Orpheus! The research facility has four beach and underwater cameras that livestream throughout the day.

Keep an eye on underwater marine life like rockcod, coral trout, blacktip reef sharks, turtles, yellowtail fusiliers, and hard and soft coral or stay on land to check out the view from Rocky Beach or Pioneer Bay.

Learn more about the Classroom on the Reef


If you’d like to learn more about the interesting and challenging environmental sciences programs available at James Cook University, please contact us at info@oztrekk.com.