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One Tree Island aerial view

One Tree Island

A pristine island with limited human influence
One Tree Island is afforded one of the highest levels of protection within the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef making it an excellent location for conducting teaching and research activities.

One Tree Island is a coral cay of about 4 hectares, situated at the southeast end of its reef which is 5.5 km long and up to 3.5 km wide in size. It lies in the centre of the Capricorn Group of the Great Barrier Reef, about 20 km east of Heron Island and about 100 km off the Queensland coast from Gladstone. 

The Australian Museum began research at One Tree Island in 1965 and it has been managed by the University of Sydney since 1974. The site is renowned for Great Barrier Reef research with a bibliography of 300+ titles. Research at the station has focused on climate change and bleaching, eutrophication of reef systems, carbonate chemistry, geology, sedimentation and the ecology of reef organisms.

One Tree Island ariel view

How to book

To make a booking please contact one of our Station Managers. At the time of your booking ensure that you state your laboratory, boating and general requirements. Please note that prior to your arrival at the station you will have to send a copy of your research permit, your risk assessment and if diving, a copy of your institutions dive approval. No groups will be allowed at the station without these documents.


Facilities and services

Marine research

If your work is classified as “limited impact” and you provide an "As of Right" (AoR) letter stating this from your accredited institution, a research permit may be authorised.

Professor Maria Byrne at the University of Sydney is legally accredited to issue "limited impact” permits. 
All other research requires a permit issued by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. Please apply at least 90 days in advance of your intended research activity:

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority 
PO Box 1379, 
Townsville QLD 4810 
Phone:+61 7 4750 0758, 
Fax: +61 7 4772 6093  

Terrestrial research

One Tree Island itself is a National Park and a separate permit is required for work on the rubble cay; this includes any land-based research (above the high tide mark). 
For permits to conduct land-based research on One Tree Island please apply to the Queensland Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing at least 40 days in advance of your intended research activity:

Department of National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing 

One Tree Island Research Station (OTIRS) accommodates a maximum of 28 people in two buildings. Eagle View houses up to 16 visitors while Lagoon View houses up to 12 visitors. Both buildings have bunk-style bedrooms, common living areas, fully fitted kitchens, and dining areas. Lagoon View has unique rubble floors except for the kitchen area which has a timber floor.  

Light blankets and pillows provided, however please bring your own fitted sheet, top sheet and pillowcase. The Station runs on strict water rations, meaning we can’t provide a laundry service.

You are expected to bring all your scientific equipment, computers, batteries and reactives with you. Please contact the Station if you have any queries or special requirements.

All your equipment and reactives must be transported on the same barge that leaves Gladstone on Thursdays. This means your equipment should be ready to be loaded on the barge on the previous Monday, at the latest.

We run on solar power with a back-up generator if required. If you need a lot of energy for your experiments (e.g. temperature controlled experiments), the generator might be necessary and you will be charged for fuel.

Dry Lab

This laboratory has standard flooring and approximately 12 lineal metres of bench space. 240 volt power outlets are located in this laboratory. 

Equipment available:

  • Small bench top centrifuge
  • 2 top pan balance (2 decimal places) and (3 decimal places)
  • A range of good quality microscopes
  • Epson HD projector 

Aquarium Building (Wet Lab) 

This is a sheltered outdoor lab space overlooking the lagoon with sea tables set up for continual salt water flow input. Fresh water is UV sterilised and both fresh and seawater can be filtered (0.35 μm) so it is of sufficient quality for larval work. If you require 0.2 μm filtered water please notify the station. There will be a charge for the filter.  

At the rear of the Aquarium Building are two rooms with bench space where experiments and microscopic observations can be conducted. One room is an air-conditioned dark room, while the other room can be transformed into a dark or light work space. 

Bio Lab 

This is an air conditioned physiology unit equipped with:

  • Electronic balance
  • Centrifuge
  • Basic lab equipment 

OTIRS bench fees include the use of the Station’s smaller boats for scientific research purposes only, provided a nationally recognised recreational boat licence or above is held.

Your current licence must be produced for station records.

Fuel for the boat is based on usage and any damage to equipment requiring repair or replacement is billed to the researcher.

All vessels are fully equipped with safety equipment as required by AMSA regulations.

  • 2 x 3.6m aluminium flat bottom Punts for use inside the lagoon with 9.9 HP outboard. Maximum capacity of 2 passengers. 
  • 2 x 3.9m aluminium pontoon boats (Sea Star and Sea Horse) for use inside and outside the lagoon, and up to 500m from the reef edge, with the use of 9.9 HP, 25 HP or 30 HP outboards. Maximum capacity of 6 passengers. 
  • 1 x 4.1m aluminium pontoon boat (Sea Breeze) with a detachable canopy for use inside and outside the lagoon, and up to 500m from the reef edge, with the use of 9.9 HP, 25 HP and 30 HP outboards. Maximum capacity of 5 passengers. 

The larger research vessels can be hired at rates found in the summary of fees document.

  • RV Linckia II is a well-equipped 11m vessel with twin 225 HP motors. This boat is ideal for work outside of the lagoon and around the Capricorn-Bunker Group of the GBRMP. It can transport up to 12 passengers with baggage and equipment. 
  • RV Orcinus II is a 5.9m aluminium pontoon boat with twin 60 HP motors for work in and outside the lagoon, and transfers between One Tree Island and Heron Island. It can transport up to 4 passengers with baggage or up to 6 without baggage.


Boating activity

You must attend an induction with the Station Manager, and you will be required to demonstrate competence in driving a particular boat safely before you are allowed to do so unsupervised. Only a qualified and inducted boat driver is permitted to operate OTIRS vessels or act as a dive attendant/surface support.

All boating at One Tree Island must be conducted in accordance with the OTIRS  Boating Operations Manual. Please ask managers to forward you a copy to review prior to your arrival.

Individuals are required to verify license details on the OTIRS Registration Form.

OTIRS has an air bank fill system and 14 x 80 CF and 6 x 65 CF SCUBA tanks. Tanks are available for hire and/or you may get your own tanks filled for a charge as detailed in the summary of fees. 

The station has masks & snorkels, fins, booties, and a limited number of wet suits and BCDs/regulators available for hire.

Weight belts and weights are available at no additional charge.


Prior to your arrival at OTIRS you are required to obtain written authorisation from your institutions Dive Safety Officer (DSO) for every member of your team who will be diving. A current DSO authorisation is mandatory. You must ensure it is signed and provided, along with your dive plan and risk assessment, to OTIRS Managers before your arrival.

One member of every team must be approved to be the Dive Coordinator by their resident DSO. Dive Coordinators will be responsible for the diving activity of their dive teams and must be present at all team dives.

All SCUBA diving must be conducted in accordance with the regulations outlined in the AS/NZS 2299.2:2002 Scientific Diving Standard, the University of Sydney SCUBA Diving Operations Manual and (if applicable) the Diving Operations Manual of your home institution. Where there is variation between any of these documents, the most conservative regulations must be followed.

Please contact the Station Managers or the University of Sydney’s DSO for a copy of our Diving Operations Manual.


Although snorkelling is generally a safe activity, the strong tidal currents at One Tree Island can impact your safety. Always check tides and weather with Station Managers prior to snorkelling. A buddy-system is compulsory for all snorkelling activities beyond the Station’s vicinity.

Student groups must participate in a swim test and display snorkelling ability as additional supervision may be required, including surface support depending on your level of experience. Group supervisors are required to monitor student snorkelling activities.

Individuals are required to verify snorkelling experience on the OTIRS Registration Form.


Fresh water

The only fresh water available on One Tree Island is that collected and stored in tanks from rainfall. The water is filtered to 0.5 micron and then UV sterilised. The water is safe to drink.

Water conservation is a high priority on the island. There is usually sufficient water for showering (one bucket per person per day), but during times of low rainfall and high usage by visitors, restrictions can be enforced at the Manager’s discretion.


The Station is supplied with 240V power from an 11.1kW solar system, which is supported by 102KWh battery bank and a 13KVA generator.

Power is directed through inverters which produce mains quality power to the laboratories and accommodation buildings. It is the aim of the station to run solely on solar power. Visitors are encouraged to save energy.

Phone access

Mobile phone access is available on the island if you are connected to a Telstra network.


Internet access is via high-speed microwave link and is included in the bench fees.

Labour hire

More information regarding One Tree Island staff labour hire can be located in summary of fees document.

Logistics and costs

Accessing a remote site such as One Tree Island Research Station involves a lot of planning and logistics.

Please email the Station Managers who will advise you throughout your preparation.

Some things you need to consider when planning your trip:

  • Transfer of researchers to and from Station
  • Best dates for access to research sites
  • Availability and use of Station facilities and equipment
  • Permits required to visit and conduct research
  • Fieldwork plan
  • Risk assessments
  • Ordering of food and supplies
  • Transfer of equipment and food on weekly/fortnightly barge
  • Sample storage and transfer
  • Appropriate footwear and clothing
  • Linen/sleeping bags
  • Basic first aid items

One Tree Island Research Station bench Fees are charged on a per day basis and include GST.

For more information please refer to the summary of fees document or contact our Station Managers. 

All transport bookings from Gladstone are organised by the Managers of One Tree Island Research Station to ensure that local tide constraints are taken into account.

All travel is weather dependent, you are strongly advised to purchase travel insurance due to unforeseen delays. 

More information can be found in the summary of fees document.

By sea

You can reach OTIRS by taking the Heron Resort catamaran to Heron Island where OTIRS staff will pick you up and transfer you to OTIRS in a Station boat.

The Heron Islander operates 5 days a week, excluding Tuesday and Thursday and departs from Gladstone Marina. Costs for the catamaran are based on resort charges + 10% administration fee and will be charged to your OTIRS user-bill.

The ferry schedule is subject to variables such as weather and unforeseeable delays:

To Heron Island

Departs Gladstone – 09:30am. Check-in from 7:45-9:00am
Arrives Heron Island – 11:45am

To Gladstone

Departs Heron Island at 12:45
Arrives Gladstone at 3:00pm

Charges for your transfers between Heron Island and One Tree Island are based on cost recovery for running and maintenance of the Stations vessel. 

Where transfers can be coordinated with weekly/fortnightly supply runs, a per person fee applies. Where a special trip must be taken, a vessel charter fee applies.

Note you may be required to overnight at Heron Island Research Station as part of your transfer and fees apply. 

It is also possible to arrange direct transfer to OTIRS from Gladstone with a commercial operator by chartering a boat. 

This is cost effective for larger groups but transfer windows are restricted by the need for very high tides for vessel crossings over the One Tree Reef. 

Please discuss this option with OTIRS staff when booking if you are interested.

By air

Australia by Seaplane offers chartered seaplane flights directly from Gladstone Airport to One Tree Island. They can also fly to One Tree Island for direct transfers back to Gladstone.

Please discuss this option with OTIRS Managers when booking if you are interested. Please note, seating and weight restrictions apply.


Bus transfer may be available between the Marina and Gladstone Airport, please enquire with OTIRS staff if this is desired.

Visitors to One Tree Island Research Station are required to self-cater.

This arrangement also applies to overnight stays on Heron Island Research Station (HIRS) but it may be possible to dine at Heron Island Resort or to have your group catered for at HIRS (please speak to our managers to discuss your options).

Local supermarkets and bottle shops at Gladstone are familiar with the barge delivery service to the islands.

The barge arrives at HIRS either every Thursday, or every second Thursday, where your food will be stored appropriately until your transfer to One Tree Island.

All orders must be made by Monday at midday in order to make it onto to that week’s barge.

Please take into account that, on top of the cost of food, you will be charged for the transport and delivery to HIRS.

Food and freight are brought to Heron Island on a barge service that generally runs fortnightly, then picked up by OTIRS staff when possible. 

The barge usually arrives at Heron on a Thursday but the schedule is periodically altered due to public holidays and unforeseen circumstances.

Please confirm barge dates with OTIRS staff prior to organising the delivery of food or freight.

Please plan your freight deliveries carefully, and liaise with OTIRS staff as many times as you need. 

If freight is not delivered to the barge yard on time it may not be delivered to Heron Island for another week or two.

There is also the possibility that the tides at OTI do not allow for the boat to get to Heron on a given week to collect goods and gear. 

When organising the delivery of large freight/scientific equipment items, it is best to allow plenty of time, 2-4 weeks is not unreasonable. 

For freight to be loaded onto the barge on a given Wednesday you must take into account the following cut-off times:

  • Non-perishable goods must arrive at the barge yard by 3:00pm on the Monday.
  • Perishable items (i.e., food orders) between 7:00am-2.00pm on the Tuesday ONLY.

Ensure all goods are clearly labelled with the following:

Your name
Via Gladstone Qld 4680 

11 Rooksby Street, Gladstone, Qld, 4680.
Phone: 07 4972 5601 fax: 07 4972 440

Freight prices are only indicative and are subject to change, please refer to the summary of fees document.

Excess Freight on Catamaran

No general goods are carried on the Heron Islander including food. If you require special consideration for additional luggage, please contact the One Tree Island managers. Allow extra time if you have extra luggage.

Due to the remote nature of OTIRS, visitor safety is of the highest priority. 

There are numerous environmental hazards to be aware of, which include: 

UV and wind exposure in the field for extended periods can lead to sunburn and dehydration, please wear appropriate protection and drink plenty of water. 

Marine hazards include stingrays, stonefish, sea snakes, cone shells, sharks, potentially Irukandji syndrome, exposure and currents. Be attentive and aware of local conditions when involved in marine activities.

Coral cuts, grazes or blisters can quickly become infected in tropical environments. Keep any abraded skin clean and apply disinfectant after contact with sea water.

Slips or trips due to the uneven, coral rubble ground cover. Appropriate footwear is essential.

Anyone with a pre-existing medical condition should inform the Station Manager prior to arrival.

The Station has a well-equipped Royal Flying Doctor Medical Chest and access to RFDS medical staff. In case of emergency the RFDS can fly to One Tree Island weather and tide permitting.

Scientists are required to provide their own basic first aid needs.

Items you should bring:

  • Sea-sickness tablets (if required)
  • High SPF sun screen
  • Aqua Ear (preventing swimmer’s ear)
  • Aspirin or your preferred pain relief tablet
  • Aloe Vera or calamine lotion for sunburn
  • Band aids
  • Insect repellent
  • Antiseptic cream 

Tides and currents

One Tree Reef is a mesotidal environment, with a maximum tidal range of 3.5 m. Strong tidal currents are frequently experienced inside the lagoon and along the reef edge.

Due to the raised reef rim, the lagoon ponds at low tide. As a result, boats may only enter or exit the lagoon at certain tidal heights. When making a booking, please keep in mind that access to and from One Tree Island via boat is entirely tide dependant.

Tidal variation influences the accessibility of research and dive sites within the lagoon system and the reef edge. Always confirm your activities with the Station Managers so they can advise you of the local tides and currents relevant to your research sites.


Daily weather forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology and Windy Weather are available from either the Station Managers or your personal devices. For marine forecasts, OTIRS sits within the Capricornia Coastal Waters of St Lawrence to Burnett Heads.

The Station Managers have the final say as to whether boating, diving and snorkelling activities are permitted in marginal or rough weather/sea conditions.

Please be aware that the cyclone season runs between November to April, although they can form outside of these months. Individuals are responsible for any additional costs incurred due to a cyclone evacuation.

Cyclone Management Plan

For more information about the Cyclone Management Plan for OTI please contact

Rubbish and Recycling

OTI is a National Park, meaning visitors are responsible for their rubbish – both recyclable and non-recyclable.

Although the managers assist with the transfer of waste products via Heron Island before it is transferred to Gladstone, researchers are asked to be particularly considerate with regards to waste management practice throughout their stay.

Laboratory wastes

You must inform Station Managers of any non-biodegradable, toxic or radioactive material you plan to bring to the island.

Researchers are solely responsible for all safety aspects of storage and use whilst on the island, and its removal on departure.


The station has three waterless composting toilets.

Excess cooking oil must be collected in a container and never poured down the drains.

You are encouraged to bring plant-based, biodegradable soap and shampoo to reduce pollutants being introduced into the environment.