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Young Indigenous scholars prepare for careers in marine science

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students tour the SeaSim facility
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) welcomed 40 Indigenous students from the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Marine Science (ATSIMS) program to their Townsville, Queensland headquarters on 6th November 2013. The students toured the National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) as part of larger program to inspire Indigenous secondary school students to pursue careers in marine science and management. 
 
But while the Indigenous scholars are learning from marine scientists, the scientists also hope to gain traditional knowledge from the 70 Traditional Owner groups living along the Great Barrier Reef.    
 
"Indigenous knowledge of the Great Barrier Reef dates back tens of thousands of years and this enormous wealth of knowledge could really benefit western marine research and management efforts." said Joseph Pollock, a PhD student at James Cook University (JCU) and AIMS in Townsville who is leading the pilot project.
 
For example, James Gaston, a member of the Giru Dala Council of Elders, leads a turtle tracking program in Bowen with his wife Sheryl that provides information on turtle numbers and health state that informs research and management of these charismatic animals. "This innovative program beautifully exemplifies the benefits of linking traditional knowledge with western science and management,"  Pollock said.
 
The Indigenous scholars visited SeaSim at AIMS as part of the five-week ATSIMS initiative.  The talented and enthusiastic Indigenous students were carefully chosen from four participating Townsville schools and have spent the last several weeks engaged in a variety of hands-on activities, including: field work at Orpheus Island Research Station on the Great Barrier Reef and in-class workshops with a diverse selection of Indigenous and non-Indigenous experts in the field of marine science.
 
Reflecting on her weekend spent on Orpheus Island with AIMS and JCU scientists, Sierra Leone Brown, 16, a student from William Ross State School said: "I really enjoyed learning to snorkel on Orpheus Island. I learned so much about fish and coral. It makes me want to look at marine science moreā€¦ considering how our corals are at the moment and how everything relies on each other."  The students learned about sustainability, marine science and how much the environment means to their culture.
 
Now in its fourth week, the ATSIMS program is a five-week course sponsored by the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the Australian Government, AIMS and JCU.
 
Media contact:
Joseph Pollock, J.Pollock@aims.gov.au , 04 6640 7141; Georgina Kenyon, AIMS, g.kenyon@aims.gov.au, 07 4753 4265