Learning about cultural heritage in field work

Recently, a species of skink, Lerista anyara was described by Dr Andrew Amey and his colleagues Patrick Couper and Dr Jessica Worthington-Wilmer.

Lerista anyara, Olkola country, Queensland. Image credit: Steve Wilson

Found in the remote Olkola National Park in north Queensland, the skink was discovered by consultants working with First Nations Traditional Owners, the Olkola people, on the Kimba Plateau, in Cape York, following Bush Blitz, a species discovery program.

The Olkola people who helped find the skink, contacted Queensland Museum herpetologist Dr Andrew Amey who confirmed it was a new species.

The new species, Lerista anyara, is only known to inhabit the Kimba Plateau. In consultation with the Olkola Aboriginal Corporation, they agreed the name should be Lerista anyara as Anyara is an Olkola word for worm and is used for the area this species is found –quite possibly in reference to this species.

This is a unique species in that it is only found on the plateau, which is just 100 square kilometres in area.

Over the years Queensland Museum Network researchers and scientists have discovered and named hundreds of new species, contributing to Queensland’s rich biodiversity of plants, animals, marine life and much more. 

Biodiversity is closely linked to culture, especially for First Nations people and a lot of research, documenting and discovery that has happened over the years, couldn’t have been achieved without the support and consultation with Traditional Owners, during field work.

Consultation with Traditional Owners, who are the recognised custodians of the land, allows access, ensures shared knowledge and allows us to learn more about cultural values on these sites.

From the Wet Tropics Zone of North Queensland to the Eastern Highlands and everything in between, when a new species is named, consideration of the naming may include a reference to a person or place that is significant to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community or may be named in their honour.

Queensland Museum Network scientists and researchers recognise and appreciate the support over the years from Traditional Owners to help achieve outcomes for the environment.

As part of our commitment to First Nations’ knowledge and narrative we will continue to work together to ensure traditional knowledge, including know-how, practices, skills and innovations can be recognised in our scientific work now and into the future.