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Best of both worlds: Caring for land and sea with traditional knowledge and science

PHOTO CREDIT: Madeina David – Environmental Management (Land and Sea Management Unit)
Madeina David

Scientists, natural resource officers and rangers in TSRA’s Land and Sea Management Unit are among women championing conservation and sustainability in the Torres Strait and beyond. The region is rich in culture, language and environmental treasures including turtle, dugong, seagrass and birdlife.

Award-winning marine scientist Madeina David, 25, works with communities, universities, scientists and rangers to support a sustainable cultural and ecological future for the region.

Madeina often takes on an additional role to translate scientific terms and concepts into local language and practical information for communities and colleagues.

Each year, she coordinates trips with Traditional Owners and rangers to places including Iama, Poruma, Badu, Moa, Mabuiag and Mer to monitor seagrass, and Maizab Kaur (Bramble Cay) to tag turtles and share findings with remote island communities.

“The Torres Strait is the northernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef,” Ms David said.

“With some of the world’s largest seagrass meadows, it is home to six of the world’s seven marine turtle species and significant dugong populations.

“Our work to combine traditional knowledge and western science is critical in supporting the survival of these marine species for the next generation, locally and globally.

“Moving away from home for study was hard, but now I am living my dream back home on the islands, caring for our oceans and working with our people.

“I would love to see more girls and women, especially from the islands, explore careers in science to care for our land, sea and culture.

“If you have a passion for the environment, follow your dream as you never know where it can take you and the positive difference you can make.”

This year, TSRA celebrates its 30th Anniversary and the resilience, achievements and aspirations of the region.

Established on 1 July 1994, TSRA is a statutory body and the lead Commonwealth agency in the Torres Strait for Indigenous Affairs, operating under the direction of an elected Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal Board.

As one of the most remote Australian Public Service agencies, TSRA supports programs across the Torres Strait region, including for the 17 inhabited islands of the Torres Strait and the communities of Bamaga and Seisia in the Northern Peninsula Area of mainland Australia.

For more information about the TSRA visit or follow us on Facebook.

Fast Facts

  • The Torres Strait stretches 150 kilometres northwards from Cape York Peninsula to Papua New Guinea.
  • The 48,000 km² area includes more than 270 islands and reefs.
  • TSRA’s Land and Sea Management Unit delivers the Environmental Management Program.
  • The TSRA Ranger Program started in 2009 with one ranger group on Mabuiag and has grown to 13 Ranger groups across 14 Torres Strait communities (13 islands) – supporting 55 ranger roles.
  • Women make up about a third of TSRA’s ranger workforce with a record number of 19 female rangers, up from 8 previously.
  • Six of the world’s seven species of marine turtle (green, hawksbill, loggerhead, flatback, leatherback and olive ridley turtles) feed, nest and/or migrate through Torres Strait.
  • The Torres Strait has some of the largest and most diverse seagrass meadows in the world.

Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal people are advised this website may contain names, images and recordings of people who have passed.