Across northern Australia we’re collaborating with Traditional Owners to monitor sea Country and gather data in remote areas to build the Northern Australian Marine Monitoring Alliance (NAMMA).
NAMMA combines Traditional Ecological Knowledge and the capacity of Indigenous rangers with western science techniques and state-of-the art technologies. The partnerships rely equally on Traditional Owner and western knowledge systems to support Traditional Owners and Indigenous rangers in remote communities to carry out scientifically robust monitoring. While AIMS scientists may provide initial training and support and ongoing advice, the goal is for NAMMA monitoring programs to be Traditional Owner led, informed by cultural considerations and customised to meet the needs and aspirations set out in their sea Country management plans.
Trends identified in NAMMA data allows Traditional Owners to understand changes in the health of their sea Country and develop evidence-based management decisions. By combining Traditional Ecological Knowledge with data-driven insights, Traditional Owners can actively manage their sea Country to support local and regional conservation efforts. The data will fill geographical knowledge gaps across Australia’s tropical marine ecosystems. Equally important, AIMS scientists are learning Traditional Ecological Knowledge and creating new links between knowledge systems for improving sea Country management.
An Alliance in progress
Since its establishment in 2018, NAMMA has made significant progress. We have fine-tuned monitoring frameworks, automated data collection processes, created bespoke training materials and enhanced science communication outputs. As we move forward, we are ready to expand our partnership network across northern Australia.
Currently NAMMA members include:
- Bardi Jawi Rangers in the Kimberley, Western Australia
- Anindilyakwa and Umbakumba Rangers in Groote Eylandt, Northern Territory
- Traditional Owners and rangers of Mer, Erub and Ugar in eastern Torres Strait
NAMMA has attracted global interest, including significant support from Accenture and TATA Industries.
Co-designing long-term monitoring programs on sea Country
Our scientists join Traditional Owners on-Country, to work together and co-design a customised monitoring framework designed to deliver data on whatever marine flora, fauna or physical observations they need using appropriate tools and techniques. After discussions on what the needs of the local community and their sea Country are, together, we map out a sampling design that considers practical capacity constraints and cultural values and protocols to apply the best scientific methods available.
Examples of monitoring techniques include:
- established scientific in-water methods, such as fixed site surveys using scuba and manta tows.
- diver-less methods using technology to capture images, such as drop cameras, towed video, baited underwater video stations (BRUVs) and new technologies like ReefScan. These methods are necessary in areas where diving is unsafe.
- oceanographic observations using deployed sensors and loggers.
- early detection for marine animals of interest using eDNA methods.
NAMMA methods may expand in future to accommodate additional interests and issues of concern to Traditional Owners.
Training and certification pathways for Indigenous Rangers in marine monitoring
Traditional Owners undergoing training are contributing to the creation of accredited units in Australian Vocational Education and Training (VET) packages. In time, rangers will have their training officially accredited through a Registered Training Organisation.
Robust data analysis and reporting for managing sea Country
Data collected will be uploaded to a customised cloud-based platform by Indigenous Rangers, with analysis by AIMS scientists, and reporting capabilities of fish and reef communities to suit the needs of Traditional Owners for sea Country management.
The platform is based on ReefCloud, a digital tool that uses machine learning and advanced analysis to rapidly extract data from images, analyse it to reveal any trends of change, and share results in an intuitively driven dashboard.
By combining analysis of scientific data alongside Traditional Ecological Knowledge, NAMMA aims to build an understanding of changes in marine and coastal ecosystem health to support Traditional Owners to understand and describe the health of their sea Country and initiate evidence-based management decisions.
Feature image: Jordan Ivey