The expanding area of land and sea country under active Indigenous management presents an unprecedented opportunity to better manage and monitor biodiversity across north Australia. Indigenous people have extensive traditional ecological knowledge and maintain strong cultural links to their country, and they are often the only locally-based land and sea managers over vast areas of the north.
The growing Indigenous environmental workforce is becoming increasingly skilled in the use of quantitative field methods, and it is vital for them to have access to scientifically robust methods and technological advances that are directly relevant to the work they are doing on the ground. Establishing best practice models of research partnerships that facilitate cross-cultural understandings of biodiversity management is also critical for the successful management of north Australia’s land and seas.
Research partnerships provide opportunities for Indigenous rangers to access specialist knowledge, training and equipment, and to develop innovative approaches to monitor environmental values and indicators identified through community-based environmental planning processes.
The I-Tracker program works to develop tools that support scientifically robust, community-based biodiversity monitoring programs for Indigenous land and sea managers, and foster partnerships that contribute to sustainable Indigenous livelihoods based on caring for country. The on-ground work of Indigenous rangers in locally-based research projects builds ranger capacity and skills, documents local environmental circumstances, and assists Indigenous communities to implement their own management plans. The data collected through joint research projects also increases baseline scientific knowledge of the north Australian environment, and lays the foundation for rangers to engage in long-term monitoring for biodiversity conservation.Image: Nyul Nyul Rangers work with the University of Western Australia research scientists to assess the health of wetlands