[ASC-media] Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teens merge traditional ecological knowledge with marine science on Orpheus Island

Melissa Lyne mlyne_99 at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 28 07:11:33 PDT 2013

Few get to experience
Orpheus Island in their lifetime, but this weekend a team of 40 high school
students embark on an overnight trip to the island on the Great Barrier Reef as
the very first participants in the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Marine
Science (ATSIMS) initiative.
within the traditional sea country of the Manburra people and boasting a
world-class marine research station run by James Cook University (JCU), Orpheus
Island provides the selected year 9 and 10 Townsville-based students with the
unique opportunity to study coral reefs firsthand, alongside coral reef
scientists and Australian Aboriginal Elders.
Director of ATSIMS, Joseph Pollock, says the initiative is vital for future
coral reef research. 
“There is so
much to gain from merging western marine science with the traditional
ecological knowledge possessed by the more than 70 traditional owner groups
along the Great Barrier Reef,” Mr Pollock said.
Mr Pollock
founded ATSIMS after leading a field-based coral reef science program in the
Torres Strait Islands - where he discovered the local kids were teaching him
much more than he could teach them. 
“Many of these
kids grew up on reefs, and they possess a huge wealth of knowledge acquired
over countless generations on the Great Barrier Reef,” he said.
“This critical
knowledge has not yet made its way into western marine science research.”
Sponsored by
the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, the Orpheus Island field
trip is a highlight of the ATSIMS program. The students will not only
experience coral reef research out in the field, but also learn about life on a
remote research station. In addition, the stay includes sessions with an Elder
of the Manburra people, who will share his historical and ecological knowledge
of the region with the students.
program focuses on hands-on learning, including a visit to the Australian
Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), a careers fair at JCU, and interactive
lectures from young marine scientists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for
Coral Reef Studies, JCU and AIMS.
This unique
program aims to both inspire an interest in marine science amongst Australian
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanderyouth, and to bring about a greater appreciation of their
traditional ecological knowledge in the scientific community.
“We hope that
providing these engaging, field-based science programs will bolster the
interest, experience, and hands-on skills that Aboriginals and Torres Strait
Islanders kids will need to initiate, and succeed in, tertiary studies in the
field of marine science.”
(Photos and
videos available upon request)
- Joseph
Pollock, ATSIMS, ph: 0466 407 141
- Professor
David Yellowlees, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, ph: (07)
4781 6249 or 0438 164 824
- Melissa
Lyne, media liaison, ph: 0415 514 328, email: Melissa.lyne at gmail.com
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