Seven stories about Indigenous science from 2021

Cosmos Magazine


Cosmos is a quarterly science magazine. We aim to inspire curiosity in ‘The Science of Everything’ and make the world of science accessible to everyone.

By Cosmos

Want to learn something new about Indigenous science? Here at Cosmos, we’ve rounded up some of our best stories about Indigenous science and scientists from 2021.

1. Cosmos Q&A: caring for country

With the climate crisis and its impacts continuing to worsen, Australia needs to respect and draw on Indigenous knowledge and practices to heal country, says Wiradjuri physical geographer Michael-Shawn Fletcher. Learn more about how Fletcher’s interdisciplinary research is reaching back into the deep time of the continent.

“The ‘wilderness’ myth is destroying our continent. This continent needs management by people.”

Read the interview here.

2. A long lesson for better land use

Bruce Pascoe brought Aboriginal agriculture and food plants to a much wider audience with his book Dark Emu. The next step was to ensure that the Indigenous food renaissance is driven by, and benefits, Aboriginal people – which is exactly what Pascoe’s farm, Black Duck, is setting out to do.

“You know, this is generational science we’re working on. I’ll be gone. But my son and my granddaughters won’t be.”

Read the story here.

3. How to use drones responsibly in Kakadu

Drones are hugely useful for conservation and biodiversity monitoring ­– but at the same time, can pose cultural risks and concerns for traditional owners. A collaboration between researchers, Jawoyn traditional owners and Indigenous rangers produced Indigenous-led guidelines for responsible drone use in Kakadu National Park.

“Young people should be able to use the drones to get benefit out of the use of that technology on their country.”

Read the story here.

4. Lunar traditions of the First Australians

Learn from Gamilaraay astrophysicist Karlie Alinta Noon and astronomer Duane Hamacher about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples use traditional knowledge of the Moon to guide weather predictions, food acquisition, and ceremonies. This article first appeared in Cosmos issue 90.

“The Moon and its cycles guide traditional activities on country, and this knowledge contains a wealth of science embedded within.”

Read the story here.

5. Water policy in Australia

Water is precious, especially on a dry continent like Australia. In this Cosmos Briefing, Kamilaroi water science researcher Bradley Moggridge joins other water management experts Erin O’Donnell and Warwick Ragg to discuss the future policies needed to maintain safe and equitable access to water.

“How can we bring in the value of water, from a cultural point of view, to sit alongside the economic value?”

Watch the video or listen to the podcast here.

6. Night parrot sighting

In August 2021, a group of Martu rangers working on country in northern Western Australia caught an exciting glimpse of an endangered night parrot – joining an exclusive group of fewer than 30 people thought to have seen the bird alive.  

“It’s only the fourth photo ever taken of a night parrot in flight.”

Read the story here.

Bonus: Watch an interview with the rangers who saw the night parrot here

7. Nature, food and kinship

Most people know that Australia is home to many unique species and ecologies, but fewer of us have thought about how this uniqueness shapes traditional nutrition and other plant uses among Indigenous peoples. In this Cosmos Briefing, Bruce Pascoe joins Indigenous people from around South Australia to share knowledge of how nature, food and kinship intersect in Aboriginal cultures.

“We need to take that moment in time to say this is a natural resource, how is it used, and what are the stories embedded within that plant?”

Watch the video or listen to the podcast here.

Please login to favourite this article.