Volunteer opportunities – Connell Rainforest Research Plot Network

Are you interested in contributing to one of the world’s longest running, plot-based study of rainforest community dynamics?

In 1963, Professor Joseph H. Connell (University of California, Santa Barbara) initiated two research plots in Queensland to improve our understanding of the mechanisms that maintain high diversity in complex, species rich tropical and subtropical rainforests.

At these plots, stand and demographic data for rainforest trees, saplings and seedlings have been collected at 1-6 year intervals for 50 years! These data have been instrumental in informing long-held assumptions as to how rainforests can maintain such high diversity, rather than becoming dominated by only a few common species.

Putting a team together 

It is time again to conduct another re-census of both plots and we’re looking to put together a team of keen volunteers to do this with us! What we need is a group of 8-10 people, for roughly 10-12 workdays for each plot, to get all the work done. Exact dates are currently being finalised, but the very likely times are as follows:

Monday 7th November – Sunday 20th November (two weeks) Davies Creek Plot, Dinden National Park (25 km southwest of Cairns) Tropical rainforest

Monday 21st November – Sunday 4th December (two weeks) O’Reilly’s Plot, Lamington National Park (84 km south of Brisbane) Subtropical rainforest 

The work itself involves regular length days out on the plots, relocating and recording data for all plants tagged and mapped (up to 2,000 trees and over 10,000 seedlings). Volunteers will need to be field hardy and have the capacity to collect high-quality scientific data.

Who are we looking for? 

We are looking for any person with a strong interest in ecological research, and the scientific rigour to work hard and efficiently in the field. These positions would suit science undergrads or recent graduates that want to get some more practical field experience, or anyone else with a strong interested in botany, being out in a rainforest, or contributing to important long-term research.

We take care of all flights, accommodation, transportation, and food expenses for the field trips.

We will likely preference applicants that are able to do both trips (4 week commitment), but we would definitely still like to hear from you if you are only available for re-census of one plot or the other (2 week commitment).

Getting in contact

If you think you’re the right person for this work, send your expressions of interest to Dr Luke O’Loughlin (l.oloughlin@latrobe.edu.au). Please include in your email information about yourself that addresses how you would be a great asset to the team (e.g. skills, past experience, plays well with others, etc) and attach a current CV (that includes your contact details). Use the subject heading “Connell plots volunteer” in your correspondence.

Over the next 3-4 weeks, I’ll be taking names and getting in contact with people with more details and lock-in plans after we finalise logistics (probably the first week of August). I will endeavour to reply to received emails but I am currently away in the field with only occasional access to email. If you don’t hear from me, rest assured that your name is on the list and I will be giving you a call in a few weeks. Thanks

More information

For a detailed account of site history and what a re-census entails, see this glossy-science-magazine story about the last survey effort;  READ IT HERE

To see a little bit more of the site and what others have thought of the experience, see what a few of us have posted on Twitter; SEE IT HERE


Dept. Ecology, Environment and Evolution, La Trobe University // The Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTERN) // Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN // National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy


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