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- CPBR News 1-

News from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research and
Australian National Herbarium (CANB)

For the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers

February, 1998


This is the first edition of the CPBR News. It replaces HerbNews and will be produced monthly. If you wish to contribute, please email your suggestions to Suzie Dietrich who will act as coordinator. Thank you to all who contributed to this first issue. All comments on style and content are most welcome. This is your newsletter, please let us know what you would like included.

Suzie Dietrich: ph (02) 6246 5533; fax (02) 6246 5249; email: suzie.dietrich@pi.csiro.au


1. Herbarium and Services


1.1 Herbarium Volunteers

Welcome back to the Herbarium Volunteers after the Christmas break.

We would also like to make welcome a new Volunteer, Mrs Gillian Redmond. Gillian is interested in plants but is not a botanist (BA at Melb 1954). Her background includes archival work (with the Australian Archives from 1973-1995) as well a stint in Foreign Affairs and Trade (1995-1997). We hope you will enjoy your time with us at the Herbarium. Gillian will be working in Specimen Mounting.

[Faye Davies]

Also welcome to Lyndal Spear, Kirsten Knox, and Katherine Harrington, all interns this year, who will be continuing to give us even more time as volunteers.

[Bob Makinson]

1.2 Specimen Collections

1,100 specimens (mostly from WA) were collected for live plants for the gardens by Stuart Donaldson and others. Their voucher herbarium specimens have needed confirmation/identification to give both the vouchers and living plants valid names. Stig Pedersen and Andrea Mayes, as part of this years intern program, have helped Anthony Whalen identify these specimens. Out of the 60 boxes of specimens, 40 have been identified, c. 750 specimens. I would like to show my appreciation for the work Andrea and Stig have put in over the last 8 weeks. This will enable permanent labels to be produced for the gardens plants much more quickly.

ABRS provided manuscript copies for the Flora of Australia treatments on Hakea, Banksia and Dryandra - this provided up to the minute keys and gave us the opportunity to use and test the key for any problems that may have been present.

[Anthony Whalen]

1.3 Collections of Carex canescens and C. echinata

Dr Lloyd Evans (PI) has had a request from a Norwegian colleague to collect Carex canescens and C. echinata from the Kosciusko region. Apparently the best time to collect the seeds of these plants is late February and early March. Is anyone from the Centre or ANBG planning to visit the Kosciuszko region in the near future? If so, would it be possible for you to collect the above specimens? We can provide accurate location information for existing populations. Please let Suzie Dietrich know if you can be of assistance.

1.4 Student Botanical Interns Program - 1998

The 1998 Interns Program in the Centre drew to a close on February 27th. 15 interns, representing nine tertiary institutions, plus ANBG Living Collections, performed prodigious feats of curation and specimen processing.

The Interns work full-time for two months as registered volunteers. In return for their assistance with labour-intensive herbarium tasks, they receive training and tuition in botanical theory, field and herbarium practice, job market skills, and an introduction to major areas of current research. Many interns from past years have returned to us as post-grad students or as employees.

This year, tasks achieved by the Interns included:

  • Completion (at last!) of interleaving of ANBG and CSIRO specimens on the herbarium shelves - the final 23 families were done, including Solanaceae and Rubiaceae;

  • Mounting of about 700 vascular specimens;

  • Putting away of about 3,700 vascular specimens;

  • Various processing jobs in cryptogams (mainly in fungi);

  • Packaging and dispatch of 83 consignments of duplicates (c. 6,500 specimens);

  • Substantial identification and processing assistance with ANBG Living Collections vouchers (the first Donaldson WA batch now 60% identified);

  • Limited support to researchers in Asteraceae, Orchids, and Myrtaceae;

  • Assistance with ID of a batch of 200 specimens from CSIRO Entomology.

Field work with the interns included an overnight trip to Tarlo River National Park north of Goulburn, an area not previously collected by us.

Stig Pedersen of ANBG Plant Records was a valued participant, and (we hope) found the program both enjoyable and useful. Continued involvement of Living Collections staff is valuable to maintain a real functional link with the Herbarium.

The Friends of the Botanic Gardens organisation again supported the program by providing a $50 book voucher for each intern, a gesture much appreciated by interns and Centre.

[Bob Makinson]

1.5 Farewell Ian Telford

Well, he finally did it. Ian Telford, Senior Technical Officer in the Herbarium, retired on February 27th, and has departed for Armidale where he and Doug Moffatt are restoring the "Invergowrie" homestead and launching it as a guesthouse. A general staff farewell on Feb. 25th saw over 100 present and former colleagues and friends gather to say goodbye.

Ian was for many years the heart and soul of the Gardens Herbarium, and was very largely responsible for the very high standard of curation across the board in that collection. Since the herbarium merger, he has gone a fair way to upgrading the level of identification in the combined collections also.

Ian's collecting career saw him gather many thousands of high quality specimens from all around Australia, but with a particular emphasis on the Tropics. He is responsible for many new records of rarely collected taxa, and collected many Type specimens. He maintained a particular interest in rainforest flora, and contributed treatments on a range of families to several Flora of Australia volumes. In retirement he will continue to work as a consultant on the Interactive Key to Families of flowering plants in Australia, to be issued with the new edition of Flora of Australia Volume 1.

Ian is a true generalist botanist, a sort that is now very hard to come by. We will miss him for his energy, humour, botanical skill, and field cooking. All the best to him and Doug.

[Bob Makinson]

1.6 News from Elsewhere

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney has announced two senior appointments. Stephen Forbes (formerly of RBG Melbourne and currently at Kings Park, Perth), will take over from Don Blaxell as the Director of Living Collections in October. Tim Entwisle, currently head of Research at RBG Melbourne, will take up the position recently vacated by Barbara Briggs as Director of Plant Science (including herbarium).

[Bob Makinson]


2. Research Groups


2.1 Welcome Rogier de Kok

Dr Rogier de Kok joined us this week (March 3) to take up the post doctoral fellowship with Judy West working on Pultenaea. This is an ABRS funded position (2 years & 9 months) to prepare a Flora of Australia treatment and a revision of the eastern Australian species of the genus. Rogier has recently completed his PhD at Dept. of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford on "The biology and systematics of Oxera, Faradaya and Hosea (Labiatae)", with David Mabberley as primary supervisor. Rogier's undergraduate degree is from Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden. He has done field work in New Caledonia (6 months) and in East Kalimantan, Indonesia, and is looking forward to chasing some pea plants in a very different country. You can find Rogier in the old wing of the herbarium in room 2.36 sharing with Laurie Adams.

[Judy West]

2.2 New Post Doctoral Research Positions

The Centre has obtained two new post-doctoral research positions from the recent round of research initiatives funding in Plant Industry. The positions, detailed below, give support to two areas of considerable importance both now and in the future. The positions are being advertised in the middle of March with a closing date in early April. Funding for both positions will be for three years.

  • Position 1. Molecular systematics of legumes

    This position will strengthen the systematics research of Program U. In addition, by building on existing foundations and interests in legumes in the Centre, it will allow us to develop a major focus for the future on legume research, developing further links between the Centre, the ANU, and other legume systematics groups in Australia. There are also many potential links that can be built between the Systematics and Conservation Biology research programs of the Centre.

    Specific research topics are yet to be delimited. However, our aim is to establish a sound core of phylogenetic systematics expertise in the diverse and economically important legume family. This will enable us to address a number of taxonomic and biological questions on a variety of levels, using molecular techniques.

    The project will involve a number of CPBR research staff including initially Randy Bayer and Judy West.

  • Position 2. Ecological and evolutionary causes of rarity

    Understanding the causes and consequences of rarity is central to providing a scientific basis for the development of strategies aimed at conserving species in the long-term. The specific goals of the proposed project are to:

      i. determine the relationship between a species' commonness or rarity and significant biological features that affect survival and reproduction (i.e., "life-history" traits).

      ii. classify plant species according to different types of rarity and determine which merit priority for conservation.

      iii. identify life history traits that render species most sensitive to disturbance, fragmentation and habitat degradation.

    This project will involve a number of CPBR research staff including Jeremy Burdon, Malcolm Gill, Pete Thrall and Andrew Young. Pete Thrall is currently taking the main running of the project.

    [Jeremy Burdon]

    2.3 Summer Student Research Projects

    This year four summer studentships were awarded. Two were funded by the CPBR and one each by the CRC for Weed Management Systems and the Plant Science Centre. The results of each research project was presented in a seminar session (15 minutes each) on 23 February. The extremely high standard of the student presentations, the quality of the work and the enthusiastic involvement of both students and staff is extremely encouraging for our future science.

    [Judy West]

  • i. Rachel McKay

    Rachel McKay's summer studentship, supervised by Tony Willis, John Vranjic and Richard Groves, was funded by the CRC for Weed Management systems. Her project focussed on an aspect of the germination ecology of Pimelea spicata, whose continued survival at several sites is threatened by environmental weeds. Land managers charged with protecting field populations of P. spicata plan a controlled burn of several sites. Accordingly, a primary objective of Rachel's project was to determine the influence of components of fire (smoke, heat, ash & light) on the in vitro germination of P. spicata and selected weeds (Bridal Creeper, Asparagus asparagoides & Bitou Bush, Chrysanthemoides monilifera subsp. rotundata). Among several valuable research skills, Rachel learned that even the best planned experiments can go wrong and not, necessarily, according to plan! After several "glitches" along the way, Rachel's complex 4-factor, fully factorial experimental design (comprising 1600 seeds for each of her three study species) is beginning to yield results. There remain several weeks of monitoring (the responsibility for which now falls to her supervisors) though it already appears that P. spicata germination is promoted by smoke and/or ash, but inhibited by a temperature pulse of 90C for 10 minutes. Ironically, the germination responses of the two weed species seems a little more cryptic! Rachel's project will be continued in various forms by Tony and John, who will look at other aspects of the seed ecology of P. spicata and associated weeds. Rachel will visit the CPBR in April, when she plans to spend a few days analysing the data and preparing a report on her work.

    [Tony Willis]

  • ii. Gudrun Wells

    Gudrun's project, funded by the PSC, was aimed at finding molecular markers for scald resistance in barley. This was carried out by combining bulked segregant analysis with RAPD (random amplified polymorphic DNA) primers to search for a PCR fragment that segregated between a group of scald resistant and susceptible BC3F2 barley plants. A screen of 500 RAPD primers and 100 SSR (simple sequence repeat) primers found 6 primers that detected a difference between the resistant and susceptible plants. These primers are currently being tested out against a larger sample (57 plants) in order to see how tightly linked the primer annealing sites (the "markers") are to the resistance locus on the chromosome. From this information a genetic map can be constructed of the region surrounding this locus. Once a band has been located it can then be isolated and sequenced, allowing the production of primers more specific for that band. These primers can then be used in the breeding of scald resistant cultivars to determine the presence or absence of the resistance gene.

    [Tony Brown]

  • iii. Elizabeth Oliver

    Elizabeth Oliver, an undergraduate at ANU, spent a highly successful summer working on ecological and genetic factors relating to disease spread in natural plant populations. For her project (supervised by Pete Thrall), Elizabeth focused on two important components of disease spread, transmission mode and resistance structure, using the Cakile-Alternaria host-pathogen system. Her research experience included designing and carrying out glasshouse experiments, as well as learning lab techniques associated with isolation and culturing of fungal pathogens. The results of her experimental work have already demonstrated that vertical transmission is likely to play an important role in the dynamics of this system; these results have further implications for the spatial scale over which disease dispersal occurs. The portion of her project focused on large-scale resistance structure is not yet completed, and Elizabeth plans to see this through herself in the coming months. Early results suggest that there may be variation in resistance to leaf vs. stem lesions. Future work on this system will include development of formal metapopulation studies, as well as determining the genetic basis of resistance and virulence. Currently, Elizabeth plans to come back and do an honors thesis under the supervision of Pete Thrall and Jeremy Burdon, and will therefore be involved intensively in all aspects of the the Cakile-Alternaria project.

    [Pete Thrall]

  • iv. David Greber

    Dave's summer studentship project focused on the molecular systematics of the subtribe Angianthinae of the Gnaphalieae and was supervised by Randy Bayer. The major questions we wanted to address regarded the monophyly of the subtribe and phylogenetic relationships within it. The subtribe is endemic to Australasia (with some taxa also in New Zealand) and is currently recognised as containing 51 genera. We chose to use the chloroplast spacer sequence trnL/F and the trnL intron to resolve the phylogeny because they were known to be quite variable within other Asteraceae. Dave sequenced exemplar taxa from all but one genus of the Angianthinae, as well as, 25 genera from other subtribes. Material for DNA extraction included fresh leaves collected in the field, as well as herbarium material as old as 75 years. For some problematical taxa, Dave developed a technique for purifying bands excised from agarose gels and these were successfully sequenced. Approximately 70,000 bp were sequenced in total and the results show a significant amount of divergence among the taxa. We shall be using an outgroup of about 25 taxa from other tribes of the Asteraceae. This will help test the tribal placement of several dubiously placed genera that are currently in the Gnaphalieae. Our final data set will consist of about 110 genera. Dave and Randy will continue to add a few sequences to the matrix over the next month and hope to have the matrix ready for final analysis in April. Preliminary results indicate that the subtribe Angianthinae, as currently circumscribed, is not monophyletic and is therefore not a natural group. We expect that combined molecular and morphological cladistic analyses will eventually provide us with enough evidence for subtribal realignments within the Gnaphalieae. Dave will continue to work with Randy on this project over the coming year, as time in his undergraduate schedule at ANU permits.

    [Randy Bayer]


    3. Information Technology and Data Management


    3.1 Network and Communications

    Network and communications issues affecting ANBG staff are now handled by the departmental Network Services Section. Please direct problems to the Help Desk, even if the most likely solution will probably involve John or Greg.

    A direct link to IBIS from the desktops of CSIRO staff in the Centre should be completed early in march.

    The intermittent network outages experienced during February have been corrected but the underlying cause has yet to be repaired. The work around unfortunately necessitated the removal of Ian Telford from the network.

    [Greg Whitbread]

    3.2 Databases

    The focus of the database effort from IBIS has now been directed to the combined herbaria dataset; normalising lookup tables, ironing out structural inconsistencies, revisiting and repairing import procedures, and preparing some prototype interfaces for user feedback. The combined dataset has been used to answer some queries from other institutions.

    Work continues with APNI. Chris Puttock is working through Mimosaceae (excluding Acacia) and Caesalpiniaceae, as they will appear in volume 12 of the Flora of Australia, correcting and adding entries and registering synonyms. Forms are being prepared to assist with curation of lookup tables for publications, authors, and determinations.

    [Greg Whitbread]

    Greg Whitbread has been working with IT colleagues at Kew and Harvard to produce a distributed and jointly maintained on-line catalogue of the world's plant names based on Index Kewensis, the Gray Card Index and the Australian Plant Name Index. As a prototype they have built a web application of the author abbreviation files. A substantial grant proposal has been prepared for the US National Science Foundation, which, if successful will see the temporary employment of a programmer and a botanical database editor at the Centre.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.3 WWW

    A DRAFT herbarium (CBG) label query form has been added to the gardens web site (http://www.anbg.gov.au/cgi-bin/label) preliminary to migrating from the gopher interface. This form is intended only as a temporary solution, but it can be altered very easily so please check it out and let us know what you think.

    [Greg Whitbread]

    Andrew Lyne continues to enhance and maintain the Centre's general Web site at http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/ with links to our own and other botanically useful information. If you have any information about your programs or project that you would like included in the centre Web site, or you have some other botanical sites that you think we should have links to, please see Andrew.

    The National Plant Photographic Index continues to grow and add plant images to the server. They can be found at http://www.anbg.gov.au/images/photo_cd/ or via the photo collection database at http://www.anbg.gov.au/cgi-bin/photo.public

    [Jim Croft]


    4. Education and Communication


    Murray Fagg will be away for five weeks from 25/2/98.


    5. General Centre Matters


    5.1 Advisory Committee Membership

    Interest has been shown in finding out a little more about the Centre's Advisory Committee Members. Each month, details about one of the Advisory Committee members will be featured in this section of the newsletter.

    The Centre Agreement states:

    Appointment

    13.1 "The Board may appoint in consultation with the Director an Advisory Committee comprising scientists eminent in disciplines relevant to the Activities, representatives of user organisations and other appointees as deemed appropriate by the Board."

    Role 13.2 "The role of the Advisory Committee is to advise the Board on the direction, performance and progress, of the Activities and to be advocates for the Centre's Activities in the public domain."

    Dr Bob Johnson (Chairman)

    Bob Johnson is a widely respected plant systematist, taxonomist and vegetation ecologist, retired from a highly successful career as director of the Queensland herbarium, but still active in research. He has been highly instrumental in shaping the direction of botany and plant systematics in Australia through active involvement in the Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria, the ABRS Advisory Committee and Flora Editorial Committee, the Australian Systematic Botany Society, The Ecological Society of Australia (councillor, president), the Australian Institute of Biology (appointed Fellow), and many others. His outstanding botanical research publication history, his background in the management of a highly successful and harmonious research program, the effective management of a large and important herbarium collection, and his positive contributions to formulating national botanical research policy and strategic direction bring a major contribution to the Centre Programs, and scientific and technical direction.

    5.2 Centre Review

    A Review will be held on 9-10 July 1998 to assess the progress and effectiveness of the Centre, including the Australian National Herbarium. The Review will cover the areas of the Centre∆s systematics and conservation biology research, the collections, data management, and education and communications programs.

    The Review team will consist of:

  • i. Professor Pauline Ladiges (Chair)

    Head of the School of Botany, University of Melbourne, a large department in the Faculty of Science, including approximately 150 staff, research fellows and postgraduate students. Pauline is also an Honorary Research Associate of the New York Botanical Garden.

    Pauline's area of research is in Evolutionary Biology which includes: Phylogenetic Systematics, Biogeography and Ecology.

    Pauline's current goals in this research area are:

    • To determine the phylogeny of Australian plant groups, especially Eucalyptus and other myrtaceous genera.

    • To understand the evolutionary history and ecology of these groups.

    • To understand, in a broader context, the historical relationships of geographic areas of endemism in Australia.
  • ii. Dr Patrick Brownsey

    Senior Collection Curator (Natural Environment) as well as the Manager, Collection Development, at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.

    Patrick's area of research is in Plant Biosystematics which includes:

    • Biosystematics, biogeography and cytogenetics of New Zealand, Australian and Pacific ferns.

    • Mosses.

    Patrick is currently completing accounts of two families for a volume on ferns for the Flora of Australia, and is assisting a colleague to prepare a book on the ferns of the Solomon Islands. Patrick is also preparing an inventory of rare and potentially threatened New Zealand moss species for the Department of Conservation.

  • iii. Professor Brian Huntley

    Chief Executive, National Botanical Institute, Kirstenbosch, Cape Town, South Africa.

    Brian's research experience covers studies in tropical forest, sub-Antarctic tundra, southern African savanna and Nambi desert ecosystems. In addition to the development of research programs, Brian has been actively involved in wildlife and environmental conservation at both national and international levels.

  • iv. Dr David Coates

    David is a senior research scientist with the Western Australia Department of Conservation and Land Management. He did his PhD at RSBS, ANU and has worked on plant conservation projects inboth eastern and western Australia.

    David's main interests lie in population genetics and conservation biology.

    5.3 Library News

    We have had a very productive year (PPE year that is) with many new accessions being incorporated into the library. There were approximately 135 new monographs and 260 new issues of journals.

    We have also started to process Hansjoerg Eichler's very large library that was donated to us over the last few years. We are able to add, among other things, valuable European items and additional copies of many items. All these make our library even more useful. So far, 181 monographs and 12 new microfiche items have been incorporated into the library from this collection.

    I would also like to take this opportunity to remind users to fill out the cards in the back of items and leave this card in a board from where you have taken the item. In the case of unbound journals, please fill in details of title, volume, date, your name and date borrowed on a pink card or other piece of paper and place this in a board as above. I would appreciate this being done even if you only intend using the item for a day as it saves me conducting a full scale search. Please let me know if you can't find something and I will try to help. If items are "missing" from the shelves for more than a few days I will circulate their details by email.

    Please help make this library easy and efficient for all to use. Thanks,

    [Kirsten Cowley]


    6. Other News


    6.1 Some notes from the Threatened Flora Front

    There will be an official 'launch' of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants, to be held in parallel with other launches by IUCN partner agencies, on Thursday, 9 April at ANBG. The Minister for the Environment, Senator Hill, has been invited to launch the publication. Australia, through Environment Australia and CSIRO has had considerable input to this Red List, the first global assessment of the world threatened plant situation.

    A workshop on threatened flora status assessment and conservation priority setting will be held at CPBR on Thursday and Friday, 2/3 April. A list of participants will be placed on CPBR notice boards nearer the time for information of staff.

    [Lyn Meredith]

    6.2 Darwin Global Taxonomic Initiative Meeting

    ABRS co-hosted an international meeting on taxonomy in Darwin in February which Ian Cresswell attended.

    Several recommendations came out of the meeting, namely:

    • A person be appointed to the CBD Secretariate to coordinate the GTI Web sites and list servers.

    • The Minister be asked to broach the Australian perspective at the Conference of Parties.

    • Participants from other countries to encourage their Ministers to endorse the GTI funding of global facilities.

    A one page document called the Darwin Declaration was prepared following the meeting, included below for your information.

    The Darwin Declaration

    The world's governments who recognise the Convention on Biological Diversity have affirmed the existence of a taxonomic impediment to sound management and conservation of biodiversity. Removal of this impediment is a crucial, rate-determining step in the proper implementation of the Convention's objectives. Removal of this impediment implies an urgent need to train and support Taxonomic experts, and to strengthen the infrastructure required to discover and understand the relationships among the world's biological diversity.

    Information derived from biological collections held in the world's taxonomic institutions underpins the global efforts to conserve biological diversity. The collections, staff and associated information, serve as a key resource for countries in fulfilling their obligations under the Convention On Biological Diversity. For the work of taxonomy to grow and meet its potential key institutions throughout the world must orient themselves to societies' demands.

    Accordingly, a taxonomic perspective should be integrated into policies and programs established to achieve sustainable development at all levels of government. These policies and programs include, but are not limited to, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, habitat management (including protection of threatened species), biological resources for medicine and human health, energy production, land use planning to accommodate human population growth, development and use of traditional knowledge, environmental education and training, ecotourism and bioprospecting. In addition, taxonomy should underscore all national, regional and global programs for inventory and monitoring of biological resources in ecosystems and requirements for broad-scale environmental assessment.

    Building upon previous conferences and studies (including those of DIVERSITAS), some leaders of key world taxonomic institutions, policy makers, funders and ecologists/ conservation managers, meeting in Darwin, Australia, February 2 -5 1998, recommend that mechanisms to assure achievement of the above objectives will require that:

      i. within existing resources, taxonomic institutions must continue to pursue efforts to conserve biological diversity and achieve sustainable development.

      ii. governments and other multilateral institutions recognise the cost benefits of existing global collections in providing critical biological information to all nations.

      iii. targeted additional funding must be provided to institutions to properly carry out their vital functions of maintaining biological specimens and associated information and to more broadly disseminate information derived from their collections. In addition, recognition should be given to existing taxonomic programs undertaken by these institutions which deserve continued support.

      iv. to provide a truly global service to assist with the conservation and management of biological diversity the taxonomic community must proceed with implementing the global taxonomy initiative to harness the collective information of the taxonomic institutions.

      v. in particular, the specific implementation steps recommended by the participants at the Darwin Workshop should be communicated to the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at their meeting in Bratislava in May 1998.

    [Ian Cresswell]


    CPBR News is compiled by Suzie Dietrich (suzie.dietrich@pi.csiro.au),
    Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research

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