Miriam Supuma has been working for over ten years with conservation organisations in Papua New Guinea, a country that comprises 1% of the world’s land but around 7% of its biodiversity. Miriam joined Synchronicity Earth in April 2021 to lead its Biocultural Diversity Programme (formerly the Flourishing Diversity Programme), which focuses on the recognition of traditional knowledge and its role in safeguarding biodiversity and promoting diverse lifeways. Miriam holds a PhD in Environmental Science and Conservation from James Cook University, Australia. She has a particular interest in the subsistence use of birdlife and its links to culture in the form of headdress adornment.
To start with, can you tell me where your love of nature came from?
Well, I think I was very fortunate. My dad worked for the police department and early in his career – this was around the time of independence for Papua New Guinea – they posted policemen to rural areas to work as patrol officers within communities. Part of their job was to collect important data on population, demography, natural resources and so on. So, wherever my father was posted, we went with him.
One of those places was in the Western Province, a few kilometres away from Merauke in Papua, on the Indonesian side. It’s a region that has amazing wildlife and particularly thriving bird diversity. During the Northern hemisphere winter you get migratory birds coming down, then when it’s winter in the Southern hemisphere you get birds migrating up.
We were exposed to all sorts of