David, 24, was in September awarded James Cook University’s early career outstanding alumni for the College of Science and Engineering.
The award recognises David’s work with the Torres Strait Regional Authority connecting traditional knowledge and modern science, while inspiring young Zenadth Kes islanders scientists to protect and preserve their homes.
David grew up on Iama (Yam Island). Her parents raised her with a strong understanding of how critical the ocean is for the Zenadth Kes.
“They are very proud and have always been my biggest supporters,” David says.
“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 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.”
David’s work on the islands has included helping scientists understand the reasons behind declines in seagrass habitat.
Islanders’ knowledge of historic weather patterns, herbivore populations and fishery stocks has also proven crucial to understanding the ever-changing Torres Strait ecosystems, and David has been a conduit between islanders and environmental scientists.
Her work spans coral monitoring, turtle tagging, ranger training and mentoring students at her former Waiben (Thursday Island) high school.
“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.”Moni Carlisle
TSRA sea project manager Moni Carlisle says the award is not only recognition of David’s achievements, but a win for 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,” she 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.”
TSRA chairperson Napau Pedro Stephen says the TSRA is proud of David’s journey from a cadetship to a permanent role as senior natural resource management officer.
“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,” Stephen says.
“Zenadth Kes 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.”
David graduated from JCU with a Bachelor of Science in 2021.
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