Two teams of researchers from Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, have been named finalists in this year’s Eureka Prizes for their work with Indigenous communities.

Indigenous groups across the world face many challenges in managing their lands, including rapidly growing threats to significant habitats and species.

The Kakadu NESP team have responded to this challenge by working with Traditional Owners, Rangers and young people to co-design and use innovative technologies.

Together, we have developed new and smarter ways to apply science and Indigenous knowledge to adaptively co-manage this unique World Heritage Area.

Kakadu NESP Team Eureka Prize for STEM Inclusion finalists

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CSIRO’s Indigenous STEM Education Project (ISEP) grows curiosity and passion for STEM, building career pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students around the country through six different programs for students of all ages.

The Kakadu NESP Team has developed an Indigenous-led science project in the Northern Territory’s Kakadu National Park, bringing together ethical artificial intelligence and modern science with traditional knowledge to solve complex environmental management problems, and care for animal species and habitats.

Known as the 'Oscars' of Australian science, the Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are Australia's leading science awards and offer a unique co-operative partnership between government, education and research institutions and private sector companies to recognise and support scientific excellence.

CSIRO’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, said the CSIRO teams were unlocking a better future for everyone and showing the importance of connecting deeply with our First People.

“CSIRO’s purpose is to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology, so it’s great to see world-class research underpinning benefit for all Australians,” Dr Foley said.

“Collaboration is at the heart of ensuring CSIRO research can deliver real solutions on the ground, like in Kakadu, where many partners, especially including Traditional Owners, have contributed to outstanding results for the environment and local jobs.

“The Indigenous STEM Education Project has shown extraordinary results for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people. This program is creating real pathways for them to have exciting STEM careers and be our curious and passionate scientists and leaders of the future.”

CSIRO Director of Education and Outreach, Mary Mulcahy said ISEP aims to increase participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“The project has reached beyond the walls of classrooms to increase skills, capability and aspiration of whole communities. For some, the program has been life changing,” Ms Mulcahy said.

“The six program elements engage students at various ages as they progress through school, and includes visiting remote communities, training teachers in how to embed traditional knowledge in curricula, camps for older students, and support for university studies.”

CSIRO Group leader and member of the Kakadu NESP Team, Dr Cathy Robinson, said an early win for the team had seen the count of magpie geese in one wetland jump from 50 to 1,800 in just nine months, after using data analysis on drone images to manage the invasive para grass weed.

“Through their project, Indigenous custodians and scientists have worked together to develop new ways to apply science and Indigenous knowledge to managing Kakadu National Park,” Dr Robinson said.

Bininj/Mungguy Traditional Owners and rangers are now using technologies that include drones, ethical artificial intelligence, time-lapse cameras and participatory videos to adaptively co-manage important landscapes within this World Heritage-listed area.”

The CSIRO finalists for the 2020 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are:

CSIRO Indigenous STEM Education Project

CSIRO’s Indigenous STEM Education Project is an evidence-based, national initiative that improves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student aspiration, achievement and participation in STEM.

The project has reached beyond the walls of classrooms to increase skills, capability and aspiration of whole communities. For some, the program has been life changing.

  • More information: Indigenous STEM Education Project.

    Kakadu National Environmental Science Program (NESP) Team

    The partnership is part of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP)’s Northern Australia Environmental Resources Hub. It brings together Kakadu Traditional Owners and Indigenous rangers, CSIRO, Microsoft, Parks Australia, The University of Western Australia (UWA), and Charles Darwin University (CDU).

    Traditional Owners and rangers in the national park drive the collection of information from drones, motion-sensor cameras and on-ground monitoring to assess the health of significant species and habitats and inform adaptive approaches to caring for Country.

  • More information: Northern Australia Environmental Research Portal

CSIRO also congratulates finalists for the CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership:

  • Professor Maria Kavallaris AM, UNSW and Children’s Cancer Institute

Internationally renowned as an authority in cancer biology research and therapeutics, Professor Maria Kavallaris is a champion for childhood cancer. An innovator, advocate and powerful role model for young women in STEM, she has created an enduring legacy of excellence in both research and shaping the next generation of cancer research leaders.

  • Professor Robert F. Park, University of Sydney

For nearly two decades, Professor Robert F. Park has led world-class efforts to develop cereal varieties with inbuilt genetic disease resistance. He is one of the few plant pathologists who has successfully translated their biological discoveries to the real world, his research having a sustained global impact on the economic viability of cereal production and food security.

  • Professor Geordie Williamson, University of Sydney

As inaugural director of the University of Sydney Mathematical Research Institute, Professor Geordie Williamson is leading research collaborations between local and international mathematicians. He has made fundamental contributions to Australia’s research capacity in pure mathematics and his unique leadership vision is transforming the discipline and helping shape the mathematical tools of the future.

Winners of the 2020 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes will be announced on Tuesday 24 November.

For a full list of prize partners please visit Australian Museum Eureka Prizes

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