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The sea’s the limit for Torres Strait scientist Madeina David

JCU Early Career Outstanding Alumni for the College of Science and Engineering: TSRA’s Madeina David.

A young female scientist from the remote island of Iama (Yam Island) in Far North Queensland is making big waves in marine biology.

The Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) congratulates Madeina David, 24, on being recognised among James Cook University’s (JCU) top alumni.

The former Tagai State College school captain was awarded JCU’s Early Career Outstanding Alumni for the College of Science and Engineering in September 2022.

Through her work at TSRA, she’s using her degree in Marine Science to connect traditional knowledge and modern science, while inspiring the next generation of Torres Strait Islander scientists to protect and preserve local waters, including the Great Barrier Reef.

Growing up in a fishing family, Ms David understands how critical oceans are to Torres Strait Islanders.

“My parents are my inspiration, they always taught me about the importance of the marine environment to our lives and identity as Torres Strait Islanders. They are very proud and have always been my biggest supporters,” Ms David said.

“Moving from a small island of around 300 people with plenty of family nearby, to Thursday Island for high school and then Townsville for university was hard, but worth it.

“Being able to understand and translate complex science and data in local language is helping bridge the gap between science and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) to support a healthy, sustainable future for our oceans and marine species in the Torres Strait.

“I love everything about marine, fisheries and conservation, I just want to do everything.  I am well supported in my role with TSRA’s Sea Team and by my manager to share and grow my knowledge — merging the best science with TEK,” she said.

TSRA Sea Project Manager Moni Carlisle said the award was a win on many levels – for Madeina, women in science and conservation in the Torres Strait.

“Women in science are the minority, even more so for young Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal scientists, who often don’t have the same access to science mentors, university pathways and educational support services due to resource allocations in remote communities,” Ms Carlisle said.

“Madeina is an outstanding young leader who is driving change to benefit not only the entire Torres Strait region, but also the marine science world as it learns from, shares and incorporates the knowledge systems from our nation’s first scientists.

“Her work brings together scientists, Traditional Owners, rangers and communities in a way that considers and values the rights, data, knowledge and lived experiences of Torres Strait Islanders.

“Madeina has achieved and contributed strongly to the scientific community and at only 24 years old, she is just getting started,” she said.

In TSRA’s Sea Team, Ms David’s work ranges from environmental management activities such as coral monitoring and turtle tagging, to training rangers in seagrass monitoring and mentoring students at her former Thursday Island high school.

She works with local rangers to track marine life, monitor ocean health and find ways to incorporate cutting-edge technology such as drones, artificial intelligence and eDNA to monitor land and sea from the region’s remote island communities.

TSRA Chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen AM said the TSRA was proud to support Madeina’s journey from a TSRA cadetship to permanent role as a Senior Natural Resource Management Officer.

“While studying at JCU, Madeina was able to learn and earn on the job as a TSRA Cadet,” Mr Stephen said.

“She’s now an award-winning university alumni who is using her degree to make a significant difference for our communities, our people and our way of life through science.

“Zenadth Kes (Torres Strait) is the perfect place for more of our young people surrounded by sand and sea to dive into science and environmental studies.

“The Torres Strait is the northernmost part of the Great Barrier Reef, home to culturally significant and scientifically important seagrasses, marine migratory species like dugong and sea turtle species and abundant fish communities.

“Madeina is inspiring the next generation of Torres Strait Islander scientists – she’s creating a legacy her family, community and our whole region can be proud of.

“Her achievements create a sense of hope and optimism not only about the future of our oceans, but for bright futures and world-class opportunities for young people in the Torres Strait.”

Ms David graduated from JCU with a Bachelor of Science in 2021.

Learn more about the TSRA at www.tsra.gov.au or follow us on Facebook.

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