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Remote sensing and community mapping workshop

Griffith University researcher Doug Ward explains how satellite imagery can be used to learn about wetlands

  • Author:  NAILSMA
  • NAILSMA staff recently coordinated a 2-day scientific and community mapping workshop in Beagle Bay, WA as part of a collaborative freshwater research and monitoring project that NAILSMA is leading with the Kimberley Land Council-facilitated Nyul Nyul Rangers, The University of Western Australia and Griffith University. The project is part of the Northern Australia Hub of the National Environmental Research Program.

    Traditional Owners and community members were invited to attend the workshop to learn more about the project from the research team and partners, and to share their knowledge of local freshwater systems. There are a variety of different freshwater habitats on Nyul Nyul country, but until recently, these areas have been the subject of very little scientific research. Scientists Doug Ward and Kenn Tews from the Australian Rivers Institute at Griffith University have been using satellite imagery to generate historical data about freshwater sites, and their specialised techniques are creating an understanding of how wet season floods connect different wetland systems. These techniques also allow them to derive data such as turbidity (water cloudiness) and aquatic vegetation cover for individual waterbodies. 

    Researchers presented animations illustrating how characteristics of waterbodies change between the wet season and the dry season, and from year to year. The animations were a valuable tool both for communicating the research findings to the broader community, and for stimulating further discussion about traditional knowledge and cultural values of freshwater places on Nyul Nyul country.

    Participants also engaged in a mapping exercise using outlines of key waterbodies to illustrate their own understandings of particular freshwater systems. Participatory exercises like these are helping the research team to identify cultural indicators of freshwater health for inclusion in ongoing monitoring programs. The rangers will record information about these cultural indicators alongside mainstream scientific information they collect during their freshwater monitoring activities, using a customised freshwater monitoring I-Tracker application being produced by NAILSMA staff as part of the project.

    An update of the progress of the overall project was also provided during the workshop by The University of Western Australia researcher Rebecca Dobbs, I-Tracker team member Christy Davies and ranger Ninjana Walsham.

    The results from the project’s cutting-edge remote sensing work will add to the growing scientific dataset the researchers and Rangers are building through their on-ground sampling trips. Combining scientific data with local people’s intimate appreciation and knowledge of these culturally important landscape features will create a deeper collective understanding of freshwater habitats, and help guide the Rangers’ future management actions.

    Photo (above): Workshop participants