Research facilities

Program 3

Researchers need access to the Reef in order to study it. The Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS) provides accommodation, boats, diving support, laboratories and a research aquarium for researchers, along with a commitment to make field research as effective and efficient as possible. None of this would be possible without the contributions of our donors.

Since 1978, the Foundation has provided almost all of the capital funding to develop the Station to its pre-eminent status among coral reef field stations around the world. This included a $5 million upgrade of all facilities that was completed in 2012, the 30th Anniversary Development Project. The solar power system that was installed as part of that project was further upgraded in 2021 and at least 95% of electricity used at LIRS is now produced by solar energy.

Maintenance is critical in the tropical, salt-laden atmosphere of the northern Great Barrier Reef. Our Foundation allows LIRS to maintain and replace its facilities and equipment as needed so that operations can proceed smoothly. Without our contributions to development and upkeep of its facilities, LIRS would not be able to operate, and the valuable research that it supports would be lost.


LIRS has four self-contained houses for visiting researchers and student groups. Each has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen/dining area and large verandahs. The houses are named for people and organisations who have been important in the station’s history.

Loomis House is named for Henry and Jacqueline Loomis, philanthropists whose seed funding enabled the establishment of LIRS. The house was built in 1982 and extended and refurbished in 2010 as part of the 30th Anniversary Development. It accommodates up to eight people.

Talbot House is named for Prof. Frank Talbot who established LIRS in 1973 when he was Director of the Australian Museum. The original 1970s Talbot House was replaced with a new one in 2005 in the 30th Anniversary Development Project. It accommodates up to seven people.

Suntory House is named for an early major supporter of LIRS, Suntory Corporation of Japan. The house was extended in the mid 1990s and was fully refurbished during the 30th Anniversary Development. It accommodates up to 11 people.

Kirby House is named for the James N. Kirby Foundation which has been a very long-term supporter. Raymond Kirby is a former Chair of our Foundation and James Kirby is a current Trustee. Kirby House is identical to Suntory House and was built and refurbished on the same schedule.

Two additional houses are occupied by LIRS staff.

Warman House is named for the late Charles Warman, one of the founding Trustees of our Foundation and a long-term donor. His daughter, Wendy King, is a current Trustee. The Charles Warman Foundation continues this family’s generous support of LIRS. Warman House was built in 1997 and is the home of the LIRS Directors.

Coles House is named for Ken Coles AM who was Chair of the LIRRF for 18 years to 2012 and who is a Life Member with his wife Rowena Danziger AM. Coles House was built in 2001 and is the home of the station’s maintenance staff.


LIRS has fifteen boats. All are custom built and powered with fuel-efficient four-stroke outboard motors. Twelve are 5-metre dinghies, the workhorses of reef research. These are allocated to visiting researchers for use around the island group. Two are 6-metre centre-console boats and the other is a 6-metre catamaran. These are used by larger groups, for specific purposes locally, and for trips further afield. All are named in honour of donors or with names suggested by them.

Pip is named in honour of Pip Smith. She and husband Dick are long-term supporters.

Freya and Lili are named at the suggestion of Ian Reid. The Thyne Reid Foundation was a substantial contributor to the 30th Anniversary Development.

Ellie is named for Ellie Shuetrim in honour of the vast contributions to our Foundation by her grandfather, LIRRF Trustee Charlie Shuetrim AM. Ellie’s father Geoff Shuetrim is also a LIRRF Trustee.

Sam and Sarah are named for Samantha Myer and Sarah Myer, respectively, at the suggestion of the Yulgilbar Foundation, which is a substantial donor to LIRRF.

Louise is named at the suggestion of the WV Scott Charitable Trust, which funded its construction.

Mimi is named at the suggestion of the John Villiers Trust, which funded its construction.

Primrose is named in honour of its donor, Lady Potter AC.

Mary Ida is named at the suggestion of its donor, the John Villiers Trust.

L&M honours Lance and Marianne Pearce who were maintenance staff at LIRS for 24 years, retiring in 2012.

Marie Elisabeth honours Lis Haddy. She and husband Geoff are long-term Members of LIRRF. Lis donated the funds to construct her namesake to mark a milestone birthday.

Macquarie 1 and Macquarie 2 are the two centre-console boats. They were funded through donations from the Macquarie Group Foundation.

Kirsty K is the high-speed catamaran. She was funded though a donation from Kevin Kalkhoven and is named for his daughter.

Research aquarium and laboratories

The Sir John Proud Aquarium is an essential facility at LIRS. It is named in honour of the founder of LIRRF. Researchers use it to conduct experiments in controlled conditions with animals and plants collected at nearby reefs. It is a very versatile system that can be set up in many ways.

Water quality is key in marine aquaria and it is excellent in the Sir John Proud Aquarium. Water is pumped from the sea close to LIRS and is held for a short time in header tanks. From there it is piped to the many aquarium tanks and then back out to sea.

The Sir John Proud Aquarium was extended and completely refurbished during the 30th Anniversary Development. Specific donors for the aquarium upgrade were the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation and the Balnaves Foundation.

The Raymond E. Purves Laboratory comprises four air-conditioned lab spaces for general research activities and two large covered areas that are suitable for assembling large items of equipment and for messy work. It has been built and upgraded with funding provided by the Raymond E. Purves Foundation.

The Thyne Reid Wing comprises three air-conditioned spaces for general research activities and a microscope room. It was transformed to this configuration with funding provided by the Thyne Reid Foundation.

Our support for research facilities

Our other programs

Researchers in aquarium

Program 1 - Fellowships

We provide fellowships that support field-intensive coral reef research by PhD students and early-career researchers.
Learn more >

Program 2 - Research grants

We provide grants for critical research that is often time-sensitive and for which funds may not be readily available from another source.
Learn more >

Program 4 - Education

We provide educational opportunities for future researchers and their mentors at Lizard Island Research Station.   
Learn more >

Coral reefs need our help

The Great Barrier Reef is a vital part of our ecosystem and a natural wonder beloved by Australians. It is a World Heritage Area that is at risk of being listed as 'in danger' in recognition of the many challenges it faces.

Science and the will for change are the only possible solutions. Our work is helping.

Will you help us?


Lizard Island Reef Research Foundation
c/- Australian Museum
1 William Street, Sydney NSW 2010

Lizard Island Research Station
+61 (0)7 4060 3977

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Latest Lizard Island Weather & Oceanic Observations from the AIMS Data Centre

We acknowledge Dingaal and Ngurrumungu Traditional Owners of the lands, seas and skies of the Lizard Island region.