Our research areas

Our research areas

Faculty Strategic Research Plan 2016 (PDF 214KB)

Charles Darwin University, Faculty of Engineering, Health Science and the Environment (EHSE) aims to be the destination of choice for researchers and students wanting to engage with research in and on “Challenging Environments” with world leading researchers and facilities.

EHSE is committed to furthering scientific, engineering and technological discovery in the area of Challenging Environments (climatic, geographic, cultural, political). This will be achieved through excellent, innovative, relevant and collaborative research particularly in the areas of:

  • Environment and livelihoods
  • Energy, renewables, materials  and resources
  • Human health and well-being in challenging environments
  • Science and technology pedagogy

Following the strong outcome in the 2015 Excellence in Research Australia (ERA 2015) assessment, which saw Charles Darwin University recognised with fourteen fields of research at or above world standard.


Researchers always need to identify good journals to publish in, but in the open access era, they are increasingly having to determine the legitimacy of a journal. The Library has created a new Publishing subject guide to help researchers avoid the pitfalls, and select the most appropriate journal.

The new Publishing Guide can now be accessed.

Other Library guides for researchers.

Environmental Sciences

Environmental Sciences field workThe disciplines that comprise environmental sciences are major research strengths of Charles Darwin University (CDU). The distinctive & relatively intact nature of the extensive ecosystems in which CDU is located have significant appeal as research targets, & CDU researchers & teaching staff understand the importance of building strong & productive partnerships. This culture of collaboration has reaped dividends & led to a succession of important research collaborations. CDU hosted the ARC Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management & the CRC for Tropical Savanna Management (1995- 2009). In 2004, the Key Centre became the School for Environmental Research which, in 2011, merged with part of the School of Environmental & Life Sciences to become the Research Institute for the Environment & Livelihoods (RIEL).

RIEL research encompasses 5 themes: Freshwater Ecology & Management; Savanna Management & Wildlife Conservation; Coastal & Marine Ecology & Management; Natural Resources-based Livelihoods; & Tropical Resource Futures. RIEL staff are also involved in research in southeast Asia (particularly, eastern Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Borneo & the Mekong Basin).

Biological Sciences

The biological sciences are a major research discipline of Charles Darwin University (CDU) with the unusual role of supporting two of CDU's major applied research specialisations. The distinctive and relatively intact nature of the extensive ecosystems in which the University is located have long attracted highly productive biologists and ecologists, and the distinctive public health challenges of the region have attracted outstanding medical researchers. As a small regional university, CDU has always invested strongly in building collaborative partnerships, and has become very good at doing so, consequently leading a succession of important national research collaborations. Funded by a diversity of Category 1 grants from the ARC, NHMRC, Commonwealth Environmental Research Facilities (CERF) and National Environmental Research {NERP) programs, an experienced cadre of senior staff have fostered a highly productive environment for early career scientists and HDR students.

Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences

Northern Glider TrackingThe Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences disciplines at Charles Darwin University (CDU) are fostered primarily as areas supporting and sustaining environmental and medical research. Outputs that focus on forestry, agricultural and horticultural and fisheries science relate to research in the areas of environmental science and ecology.

Research areas that are readily delineated by placement in this discipline are:

Fisheries science -focusing on the genetics of fish stocks
Crop and pasture production -focusing on the use of insect predators in tropical crop pest control
Pest management -focusing on developing control strategies for native and introduced pests in the mango and beef industries.

Research producing outputs in these discipline areas has been supported by a series of competitive research grants that are often aimed at environment or medical discoveries relying on advances in agriculture and veterinary sciences. Consequently, staff and outputs submitted in this discipline are frequently apportioned to other disciplines as well -the indicators found in these disciplines do not stand in isolation.

Information and Computing Sciences

Research in the Information & Computing Sciences discipline at Charles Darwin University (CDU) is largely interdisciplinary in nature, supporting CDU's goal of providing solutions to the complex problems facing our region. For example, innovative applications of Information & Computing Technology (ICT) have contributed to transformative teaching, learning & school leadership, Indigenous knowledge management & remote capacity building, & to enhanced health outcomes (through improvements to health systems).

In 2010 CDU recruited an Australian Professorial Fellow (APF) - Michael Fellows - to establish & lead the newly formed Parameterized Complexity Research Unit (PCRU). Prof Fellows is a founder of the vigorous new field of parameterized (or multivariate) algorithmics, a field that has strong applications across many applied areas of computing, including Bioinformatics & Artificial Intelligence. In 2012, his contribution was recognised in the publication of the Festschrift, The Multivariate Algorithmic Revolution & Beyond, Eds Hans L Bodlaender et al.

PCRU has since grown to over 10 members, including HDR students & honorary appointments, & gains notable results. Areas of ICT research specialisation include:

Algorithm design & computational complexity including their applications in bioinformatics & artificial intelligence
Applications of ICT to learning & teaching & to health systems research
ICT & remote capacity building
Indigenous Knowledge Management through digital technologies.


The discipline of Engineering is a rapidly developing area of research and teaching at Charles Darwin University (CDU). Engineering research at CDU has a natural focus on the challenging environments of northern Australia and the Northern Territory.

During the assessment period, CDU increased the number of Engineering courses being offered to meet the local and international demand -demand that was created by the expansion of construction and operation in the extractive industries, as well as opportunities arising in of one of Australia's most rapidly growing regions. Student load has increased by a factor of 10 over this period, although growth in research student numbers is slower due to strong demand for local graduates at high starting salaries.

CDU Engineering research has been targeted to meet the demand for industry funded applied research, as well as conducting high impact applied/basic research to meet future global engineering demands. There are three key areas:

Research in the mechanics of materials: focuses on fundamental strategic research into the fracture mechanics, fatigue, and dynamics of materials. A good understanding of these mechanisms is important for a range of industries, particularly the oil and gas, and mining industries.
Research in water engineering: is both strategic and applied in nature, relating to both water supply and usage. This includes the operation of mines, the remediation of legacy mines, and the modelling of catchment areas and estuaries.
Renewable energy research: focuses on fundamental research of photosynthetic and photovoltaic systems, including inorganic and organic solar cells, organic light emitting devices and applied research in thermal storage.

Medical and Health Sciences

Laboratory workThe disciplines of Medical and Health Sciences is an identified research focus of Charles Darwin University (CDU) and represent areas in which the university demonstrates significant research strength. Throughout the assessment period, research in this area was largely focused on Indigenous health and was concentrated within the Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies), together with significant smaller contributions from the School of Health and the School of Psychological and Clinical Sciences.

Established some 40 years ago with a mandate to build capacity and capability in health service development and delivery through education and research, Menzies has grown into a very successful medical research institute, characterised by very close ties with its parent entity, CDU. Menzies is strongly oriented to research partnerships, especially with the (then) NT Department of Health and Community Services (now the Department of Health) and the CDU School of Health Science.
Key areas of research include:

Indigenous and tropical health research: Menzies is an Australian and international leader in Indigenous and tropical health research, bringing together multidisciplinary teams (including laboratory scientists, epidemiologists, educators and clinicians).
Nursing research: CDU has maintained its leadership in nursing research during the assessment period, with a key focus on the changing nature of nursing roles in Australia and abroad. Psychological sciences, pharmacy, exercise science and clinical sciences research: The new School of Psychological and Clinical Sciences was established in 2013, with a research focus on clinical sciences and pharmacy.

Through support for collaboration, strong partnerships are now emerging across the Schools of the University.

Psychology and Cognitive Sciences

The disciplines of Psychology and Cognitive Science are an identified research focus of CDU. They are concerned with the application of psychological science to improve the wellbeing and productivity of individuals and organisations. In particular, this research is designed to determine the type of changes in organisations and society that are most likely to resolve intractable health and social problems. In other words, this research is designed to uncover modifiable circumstances that affect physical and mental wellbeing.

For example, our research looks at how changes to the dynamics of families, the socioeconomic status of communities, the leadership of organisations, the communication of information, and the provision of education can cohere to shape the emotions, thoughts, and behaviours of individuals, and ultimately improve their physical and mental health. These changes have been shown to diminish the incidence of modifiable diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, as well improve the quality of life in people with enduring diseases, such as Parkinson's Disease.

This knowledge had been applied to a diversity of settings, disciplines, and organisations. For example, we have worked with many stakeholders in the field of diabetes, such as Diabetes Australia, to implement a range of initiatives throughout Australia and New Zealand (including the Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed-or DESMOND­-programme).