A NEW online encyclopaedia will bring together indigenous knowledge and western scientific information about plants and animals in 'Noongar Nation in Western Australia's South West' for the first time.
The Noongar Boodjar plant and animal encyclopaedia will link indigenous species names with western scientific names, as well as ancestral ecological and cultural knowledge chosen to be shared by local communities across more than 90 plant and animal species.
For example, the entry for witchetty grub includes its Latin name (Endoxyla), its Noongar-Wudjari name (Baardi) and the Wudjari group name (Barna).
It also captures the description of 'no legs or bits or spikes hanging off them' and that it tastes like 'almonds and butter'.
The project is a joint initiative of the Noongar Boodjar Language Cultural Aboriginal Corporation in Perth and the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), with funding from the Australian Government's Indigenous Languages and Arts Program.
The encyclopaedia was developed through field trips including by elders, western-trained and indigenous scientists and linguists from the Noongar Boodjar Language Centre going out on country to share and record ecological knowledge.
Noongar Boodjar Language Centre senior linguist Denise Smith-Ali said the encyclopaedia was an important step towards better integration of traditional and western knowledge.
"In the past there has been no formal mechanism to digitally capture the layers of indigenous meaning around plants and animals beyond western science, so the Noongar-Wudjari plant and animal online encyclopaedia is the first to do this," Ms Smith-Ali said.
"In addition to developing the online encyclopaedia, an important part of this project was establishing 'ways of working' protocols and strong inter-organisational relationships between the language centre and the ALA."
Nat Raisbeck-Brown, project lead on the Indigenous Ecological Knowledge Program at the Atlas of Living Australia, said matching western scientific names and knowledge to traditional language and knowledge was not always straightforward.
"While western science uses a single Latin genus and species name to document flora and fauna, there can be many species linked to a single Wudjari name, for example, Pibaarak for wattle or Acacia," Ms Raisbeck-Brown said.
"A lot of species definitions in western science are based on what the plant or animal looks like, like how many scales on the lip or how many petals.
"By comparison, indigenous names and classes of plants and animals can be based on what they are used for and sometimes what other plants and animals they are used with.
"By working together on this project we are demonstrating how co-innovation can integrate western and traditional science knowledge.
"The Noongar-Wudjari community are providing the traditional science knowledge and the ALA is providing a pathway to access both knowledge systems together."
The encyclopaedia is publicly accessible on the ALA, Australia's national biodiversity data infrastructure funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and hosted by Australia's national science agency, CSIRO.
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