Fish study an NRM award contender

Gunbalanya School and Jabiru Area School are up for a 2019 Natural Resource Management Award.

The schools partnered in The Djenj Project: Bininj Fishing Past, Present and Future — a project alliance that may eclipse three other contenders for the Best Collaboration in NRM Award.

The investigation, which examined fish and fishing in west Arnhem Land, was an enquiry using Bininj traditional knowledge and data collected using Western science.

Students from the two schools worked with community members, elders, Bininj rangers, Balanda researchers, teachers, water quality scientists, rock art experts, linguists and two archaeologists.

The aim was to reveal seasonal environmental changes and migration patterns by collecting fish six times during the course of the study.

Fish were processed to collect their skeletons and otoliths (fish ‘ear stones’)  providing valuable information, such as age, rate of growth, and the water conditions to which they had been exposed.

The students participated in otolith workshops and fish dissections, made traditional bone point hooks and fish traps, mastered cultural cooking techniques, received first language knowledge and heard time-honoured stories.

Jabiru Area School principal Learne Dunne said: “The Djenj project has been a nine-month inquiry involving laboratory work, and outside tasks in the hall.

“With help from archaeologists and Djurrubu Rangers, the students have been making hooks from wallaby bones, learning traditional methods of catching fish, and subjecting otoliths — kunkanemmurrng in Kunwinjku language — to physical and chemical analysis.”

Jabiru student Jude Lami Lami said: “It was interesting learning about the fish we eat, but we had to be really careful taking out the otoliths because they are really fragile.”

Gunbalanya School principal Sue Trimble added: “It was a fabulous collaboration; using the expertise of scientists and local knowledge, working alongside students to achieve authentic learning.”

The winners of the awards will be announced on 13 November 2019 at the Darwin Convention Centre.

Fish study an NRM award contender

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