Science on Country: Short films on research to better manage northern Australia

21 August 2015

The efforts of Indigenous land and sea rangers to help protect and care for their country are being highlighted during National Science Week.

Indigenous groups are at the frontline of land and biodiversity management across northern Australia. More and more groups are adopting scientific methods to monitor various biodiversity values that are of environmental and cultural importance, like sea turtles, wetland health and native mammals.

The Northern Australia Hub of the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program has partnered with the North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance Ltd (NAILSMA) and a number of ranger organisations to develop monitoring methods to suit their needs.

The work of two of these ranger groups has been featured in short films which were screened at the Deckchair Cinema and are also available on the Hub’s website. One film explores a rapid wetland assessment method, which was developed during a collaborative research project involving the Yintjingga Aboriginal Corporation’s Lama Lama Rangers, NAILSMA, and South Cape York Catchments (SCYC).

The rangers use customised software loaded on a handheld digital device to collect monitoring data. Over time this information allows them to track changes to the condition of their wetlands, such as how much water quality and riparian vegetation improve where they have fenced out feral pigs.

NAILSMA Executive Chair Peter Yu says the new approach covers data collection, analysis and mapping; and allows rangers to monitor a large number of wetlands every year.

“For a lot of environmental and scientific issues, long-term monitoring is very important,” Mr Yu said.

“Improving the community’s capacity to be able to implement monitoring will be significant in allowing both the Traditional Owner community and the wider Australian community to be able to get good information on issues over the long term.”

The Wunambal Gaambera Aboriginal Corporation’s Uunguu Rangers from the Kimberley region of Western Australia take centre stage in the second film. This film highlights a new monitoring method, developed in partnership with CSIRO, this time to log information about marine turtles and dugongs.

Watch the Lama Lama Ranger trailer here, and Uunguu Ranger trailer here

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