For the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers
1. Herbarium and Services
1.1 Field Trips
The 13th Meeting of Australasian Lichenologists was held in Coffs Harbour on 18-19 April 1998. It involved a series of seminars held at the Coffs Harbour Botanic Gardens on Saturday, and fieldwork in the nearby Coast Range on Sunday. Participants came from around Australia (with unfortunately no New Zealanders being able to attend this year) and ranged from a fresh PhD student to long-established, world-renowned lichenologists. CPBR was represented by Heinar Streimann (officially) and Judith Curnow (unofficially) with other Canberra participants being Herbarium Scientific Associate Heino Lepp, Jack Elix (ANU) and Simone Louwhoff (ANU, also working with us half a day a week, databasing on the ANBG site).
The 7 speakers were very well received, each one giving an outline of some of their research and generating considerable discussion among the group. Simone Louwhoff discussed her PhD work on Parmotrema and related genera, detailing some of the problems of morphology and chemistry encountered in her study on the genera from islands in the Australasian region. Kath Ralston (Associate at MEL) spoke about her work on the lichens of Basalt Hill in Victoria and the search for a rare species.
Jack Elix talked about his major research project to study the large crustose genus Buellia, with funding from ABRS for a taxonomic treatment for the Flora of Australia. The Australian species of this genus are in desperate need of a modern treatment and Jack noted that as well as using the services of Jen Johnston (seconded from the CPBR) he will also need to consult with three European lichenologists who have extensive experience of Buellia (and some closely related genera) from other continents.
Gintaras Kantvilas (Curator, HO) discussed the problems he has encountered and the areas for further research in his study of Siphula, with particular reference to Tasmania. He noted that morphology was quite variable (and that in the past this variation had led to a plethora of inconsistent and unreliable names) but that chemistry seemed to provide a good basis for differentiating species. He illustrated some of the correlations he'd found between rock types and chemical strains in the genus - but also noted a couple of seeming anomalies.
David Eldridge (Department of Land and Water, Sydney) reported on possible approaches to restoring cryptogamic soil crusts in disturbed (!) areas at Maralinga and discussed the lichen species he had found there. Alan Archer (retired, Sydney) outlined some of his distributional findings from his recent research on PNG Pertusaria. Nell Stevens (retired, Brisbane) showed slides to illustrate the distinctiveness of the species in Usnea.
The fieldwork sites gave a variety of vegetation types and consequently a variety of lichens and other cryptogams. The day began at the Red Rock mangroves where the group divided - some looked at the corticolous (on bark) lichens on the mangroves and others looked in the edge of the neighbouring woodland. Mangroves being regularly flooded, the soil becomes a most uninviting place for cryptogams to reside, the tide washes away any fallen wood and there tend not to be any rocks. The general atmosphere of the mangrove habitat and particular tree species have considerable effect on the cryptogams present with lichens, algae and cyanobacteria being far better represented than bryophytes or macrofungi.
We then went into the Coast Range where the first stop was a stand of palms beneath broadleaf middle layer and Eucalyptus canopy. Here the majority of lichens and bryophytes were corticolous (on bark and fallen wood) or saxicolous (on rock) with a few getting onto the soil or leaf litter. There were abundant macrofungi on wood and leaf litter, particularly on the undersides of logs. After lunch we sampled a mixed wet forest without palms and with large sandstone rocks which had long-since fallen from the large sandstone cliff-face rising beside and towering above the forest. The taxa present here, representing many families in each cryptogam group, were a quite different combination to those of the previous sites. To finish the day, we drove to Mt Coramba where we rose above the forest to make full use of the fading light. Here the road cutting left a 2 m high rockface which was damp from seepage and was densely covered with abundant quantities of a great variety of families of lichens and bryophytes. Behind the rockface, the exposed hilltop was densely covered in shrubbery (mostly weeds due to the disturbed habitat) and under these some fungi were to be found.
The evenings saw a variety of activities ranging from animated discussions on taxonomy to applied gastronomy.
[Judith Curnow, Heino Lepp]
Lindy Cayzer, Greg Chandler and Stuart Donaldson were in WA Southern provinces between 7-28 February 1998. Predominantly to collect genetic material of Gastrolobium spp. and fruits of Pittosporaceae.
Ian Brooker and I had a successful 2 week field trip to Mulgunyerie, Flinders Ranges, Gawler Ranges and Eyre Peninsula as part of EUCLID II project. Main aims were field photography, sorting out taxonomic problems in the area especially with the Eucalyptus dumosa and E. socialis groups, plus specimen collection and seed collection.
The weather was fine with most days bright and sunny and thus suitable for habit, bark and leaf venation photography. Many species had buds sufficiently mature for close-up photography and juvenile leaves were present for most taxa. The taxonomic problems that were evident in the herbarium collection tended to resolve themselves when field populations were looked at as they often do.
Highlights for me were Eucalyptus lansdowneana in brilliant red flower on Kokodo Hill, the golden flowers on Acacia beckleri in the western Gawler Ranges, Correa pulchella in bright orange flower on limestone cliffs at Point Avoid and the best of all Eucalyptus gillii at Wirrealpa just coming into flower.
1.2 Review of Herbarium Activity on ANBG Site
Herbarium activities on the ANBG site have been the subject of a recent internal review conducted by Jim Croft and Bob Makinson. This was mainly to sort out space issues and refine duties and workflows, but also forms a useful prelude to the Centre-wide External Review scheduled for July.
The internal review covered:
The woodblock collections, and several vascular specimen backlogs, are housed on the ANBG site. Most require some skilled pre-processing, but unskilled labour (e.g. interns) can also help us greatly with incorporation. A start on these will be made in Spring 1998. Their transfer to the CSIRO site will free up space, including for the projected expansion of Lichens needed in 2-3 years time.
The lack of a full-time IBIS databaser for much of the last year was clearly identified as a major problem with maintaining specimen processing rates, as it has been also on the CSIRO site. Management is hopeful that this position can be filled fairly soon.
Judith Curnow will be embarking on a Hepatics Catalogue (HepCat) project, developing a checklist for hepatics in Australia that will also serve as part of the Australian Plant Name Index.
Our Herbarium is slated to host the next national Herbarium Technicians Workshop, which will concentrate on training in cryptogamic techniques. Following two postponements, a firm date in April 1999 has now been decided. Helen Hewson will convene a planning group.
Areas of responsibility in Cryptogams have been changed.
Heinar Streimann (Curator, Mosses & Lichens) now has full responsibilities (incl. identifications, enquiries, loan preparation, etc.) in Algae, Lichens, and Mosses, plus supervision of Associates and Volunteers working in those groups.
Judith Curnow (Technical Officer, Fungi and Hepatics) has similar responsibilities for Hepatics and Fungi, plus oversight of Ferns and Gymnosperms (in liaison with Jo Palmer, David Jones, and Jim Croft). Judith will also work on displays and educational activities, and will train cryptogamic Volunteers and supervise those working on her groups; she will also assist Volunteers working on vascular taxa.
Internal and external cryptogamic enquiries should be directed to either Heinar or Judith, depending on which taxonomic group is involved.
It was agreed that an increase in the number of Volunteers working on the site was desirable, but the absence of a full-time IBIS databaser, and constraints on staff time, preclude a major expansion just yet. We are however actively seeking two Volunteers (existing or new) to assist Heinar with the Moss and Lichen collections. If you know likely starters, please have them contact Faye Davies.
It was also agreed that an Induction Checklist for Volunteers will be developed, to include fire procedures, comfort/ergonomics, grievance procedures, and so on.
The Review looked at our preparedness for damage or disaster situations. A full Disaster Plan for the ANBG site is being developed separately, but we agreed on some interim arrangements, including damage response kits for both sites. These will contain materials for dealing with some damage scenarios, mainly water damage through roof leaks or burst pipes. It was also agreed that more thorough and regular fire drills are needed. A set of roles and possible personnel for a Disaster/ Damage Response Team has also been drafted.
Overall, the Review has been a useful exercise in setting priorities and in ferreting out the jobs that otherwise tend to be out of sight and out of mind.
1.3 Public Plant Identifications
The monthly figures will be a regular feature of CPBR News, any interesting specimens will be mentioned, such as extensions of range.
13 plants were identified.
Plant specimens received in May: 35
Specimens identified: 9
Public questions received in May: 13
1.4 New Loans Officer
Roslyn Grace will commence as a half-time loans officer (to replace Ann Langston's half-time position) from 10 June. Ann will continue to work in the loans area until the PDF Legume position is filled. She will then work full-time in the molecular lab.
1.5 Herbarium Volunteers
The following request has been placed in the "Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens" Newsletter. Do you know anyone who might be interested?
Are you interested?
The Herbarium is receiving specimens at a faster rate than our current Herbarium Volunteers can mount them. Mounting involves attaching pressed and dried Herbarium specimens with their labels to special sheets of archival paper. We are very anxious to find new Herbarium Volunteers to help us get through the back-log. Most people commit themselves to one half day a week but others come more often. Our longest serving Herbarium Volunteer has been with us for nearly seven years which is when we first invited members of the community to help. Some close knit little social groups have formed since the Herbarium Volunteer Program started while some people like to come in and work quietly by themselves.
You don't need to have any experience in a botanical or related field, just the ability to be neat and "good with your hands". You will receive any training you need. We like you to work at your own pace in comfort and try to make sure you enjoy the experience. Until these specimens are mounted they are unavailable for research so if you are willing to help us you will be making a real contribution to science.
There is the opportunity to work in the Herbarium at either the Australian National Botanic Gardens site or at the CSIRO site.
If you are interested, Faye Davies (6246 5508 or firstname.lastname@example.org), would be delighted to hear from you. As Faye works part-time, Judith Campbell (6246 5108) will take a message and Faye will contact you as soon as possible.
We intend to invite our Herbarium Volunteers to a morning tea, probably at the end of June, to recognise the contribution of some of our longer serving members of the Program, some of whom have been with us for nearly seven years.
2. Research Groups
2.1 Malcolm Gill's Trip to the Northern Territory
During the last week of March, I spent 8 days in the Northern Territory. The statistics of the visit were: 3 Workshops; ca. 6,600 km by air and 1,800 km by road; and, one Field Day.
The first Workshop concerned the Kapalga Fire Experiment in Kakadu National Park. Held at the CSIRO Labs this workshop considered the results of 5 years of intense data collection from twelve 20 square km plots subject to four different fire treatments. Peter Moore and I were involved in the early days of this experiment. It was good to be brought up to date on the results. The experiment has now ended.
The second Workshop concerned fire ecology in the CRC for Tropical Savannas. It was held at the casino! There were about 100 people there representing pastoralists, conservation managers, bushfire organisations, Federal Departments, aboriginal groups, State Government Departments, research organisations, universities etc. Numerous issues were identified as needing further attention. The need for appropriate fire regimes for the land management of northern Australia, whatever the aims of management, was a common thread.
The third Workshop at the Police and Services Training Centre was about fires and remote sensing from satellites. It was only for half a day but I found it most instructive.
The 4-wheel drive expedition began after the third workshop. There was a Field Day on cattle grazing and fires at Kidman Springs Research Station (part of the old Victoria River Downs Station). Following the field day we crossed the western part of the Sturt Plateau to the Stuart Highway and eventually made our way back to Darwin.
There was one particular unexpected result of the visit which I thought might interest the taxonomists. One of my travelling companions had a laptop computer linked with a roadmap and Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS). The software in the laptop allowed the entry of data to various 'windows' linked with various locations designated by the DGPS. In addition I gather that the package will allow the in-field entry of images from a digital camera. It seemed to me that this system could be seen as a sophisticated notebook from which labels and data-basing would flow without double handling. Satellite images for the area were on another laptop but could be part of the field package in the one machine.
2.2 1998 CSIRO Student Research Scheme
Tony Willis will be participating in the 1998 CSIRO Student Research Scheme, by hosting Julia Cooke, a Year 12 student from Narrabundah College. As part of the scheme, Julia is required to undertake a small research project and present the results of her work to our lab group, as well as to her science class. She must also prepare a poster depicting the work undertaken during the project. Julia will be working with Tony over the forthcoming school term and is likely to be in-and-out of the lab for a couple of hours 2-3 times per week. Her project will follow on from some of the smoke germination studies that Rachel McKay conducted, earlier in the year, on the threatened species, Pimelea spicata, and associated environmental weeds.
2.3 Research Grant News
Jeremy has just received notification of the award of a GRDC grant aimed at examining aspects of the genetical dynamics of Rhynchosporium secalis. This position will be filled in January 1999.
2.4 2-Year Post-Doc on Rhizobia-Legume Interactions
Further recent developments on the research front include the advertising of a 2-year PDF to work on legume-rhizobial interactions with Jeremy Burdon and Peter Thrall. This will follow on from work done on an ACIAR grant by Matt Woods and Jeremy but will be aimed more towards revegetation of former agricultural land.
2.5 CPBR PhD Scholarship
Scot Kelchner (and his wife Cyndy) will arrive in Canberra 27 June. Scot is the successful applicant for our Plant Systematics Scholarship advertised last year. He completed his Masters degree at Iowa State University on the taxonomy and biogeography of New World bamboos. His PhD project with Judy West will centre around the systematics of Portulaca.
I am really looking forward to having someone of Scot's calibre working on this project with me - it is a group with lots of interesting questions appropriate for a stimulating PhD study.
2.6 Science Award
Malcolm Gill's sustained contribution to the understanding of fire and its role in the Australian environment was recognised by his selection for the 1998 "Unsung Hero of Australian Science" award by the Science Communicators Association. Well done Malcolm!
Late in June, Jeremy Burdon will be away for five days while he attends and presents an invited paper to the annual meeting of American Naturalists being held in Vancouver, Canada (20-26 June).
Randy Bayer will be in the United States during most of June so that he can participate in an extensive collecting trip aimed at obtaining material for a project on apomixis.
2.8 Refurbishment of Building 65
The currently fragmented disposition of the host-microbe group between building 502 and 73, and its forthcoming expansion in size (2 new PDFs in the next 7 months) has lead to a decision to bring much of this group and its laboratory facilities together in the one spot. To achieve this, plans are currently being drawn up to refurbish building 65 and fit it out with labs, offices, a growth room and storage space.
3. Information Technology and Data Management
3.1 Herbarium Database Application
Greg Whitbread and John Hook have been refining the herbarium specimen editing and data entry application and it is now at the stage that it will be unleashed on selected and unsuspecting herbarium staff next week for evaluation and feed back. Procedures have been developed to remove duplicate records in the plant names data and to rationalise collector teams. The application has lots of yucky windowsy mousey pointy clicky pop up and pull down techy stuff to entertain, annoy, amaze and irritate.
3.2 CSIRO Bioinformatics Project
Greg Whitbread and Jim Croft had preliminary discussions with Kerry Taylor of CSIRO CMIS on technical aspects of the Centre's botanical databases and their functions. Kerry was provided with details of the database structure and shown through part of the herbarium to introduce her to the information requirements of the project. A large part of the discussions concentrated on GIS potential of the database and with graphical possibilities for query and visualisation of data.
3.3 Australian Plant Name Index
ABRS has agreed to fund a temporary appointment to add synonymy and other data to strategic families in APNI. Pending approval of contract words and legal stuff, it is hoped that the project will start late May or early June and run for approximately a year.
3.4 Review of EA Desktop Computing
Environment Australia is conducting a review of its desktop computing and office automation with a view to upgrading facilities by the end of the year. Maggie Nightingale and Andrew Lyne attended a workshop at the gardens on the process and user requirements, and Greg Whitbread and John Hook made formal submissions to the review on technical issues.
3.5 Year 2000 Issues
Preliminary investigation indicates that the main Centre database applications and computing infrastructure are unlikely to be seriously impacted with the change of date at the turn of the century. However, there are sure to be some applications or embedded systems that will not make the transition gracefully. As there is likely to be a major panic at the end of 1999, if you have any doubts about the equipment you use, it would be wise to get in early and avoid the rush.
4. Education and Communication
4.1 ANBG Photo Collection Images for Family Key CD
The ANBG slide collection is playing a part in the production of the Interactive key to the Australian Flowering Plant Families, which is being developed by Laurie Adams, Kevin Thiele, and produced as a CD-ROM with support from ABRS. Slides representing each family have been supplied for Laurie Adams and Kevin Thiele to peruse, muse over, select or reject.
At the moment there are several hundred slides moving between the collection and the Centre for this project. When selections are made, the chosen slides will be transferred to photo CD which will allow the ANBG to make many more images available on the Web. These photo CD's will then be used in the production of the Family Key CD-ROM which will become part of the revised edition of Volume 1 of Flora of Australia.
ANBG Photograph Collection - continued
Assembling photos to contribute to the interactive Key to Families CD-ROM being produced for the second edition of Vol 1 of Flora of Australia continued during the month. Having pillaged the ANBG Photo Collection of more than 1,000 images, Laurie Adams, Jan Wilson and Murray Fagg moved office (and light-table) to Murray's home collection for three half-days, filling gaps in the image record with obscure genera that he had photographed over the years. Collections are also coming in from other private contributors.
Jan is collating these and ABRS is arranging to have them transferred to Kodak Photo-CD's. Kevin Thiele will use the CD's to integrate images into the Family Key using LucID.
5. General Centre Matters
5.1 Centre Review
After discussions with the Executive Committee and Centre staff, we have come up with a draft Program for the two day Centre Review to be held 9-10 July. (To be distributed separately.)
There is clearly not enough time for all staff to meet individually with the Review Team, therefore, I propose that staff meet with the Reviewers on a Program basis, and time be set aside for a subset of technicians, students, volunteers and collaborators to meet with the Reviewers. For the research Programs, I anticipate having the research staff present, and for the Collections, Data Management and Education Programs, it will be a combination of technical and professional staff.
Since developing the initial program and plan for the two days, the Chair of the Review Team, Professor Pauline Ladiges has visited the Centre to discuss various aspects of the Review. It was useful to have this initial interaction and enabled us to finalise the plans and clarify the contents of the documentation to be sent to the reviewers prior to the Review.
We will need to provide the Review Team with detailed background papers by mid June.
A small working staff group, comprising Malcolm Gill, David Jones, Helen Hadobas and Ann Langston, developed and analysed the results of a questionnaire for staff input. You will have seen the result of this survey.
The Executive Committee has made an initial analysis of the results of the staff survey and have identified a number of issues that need to be further discussed. I intend that as many members of the Executive Committee and the working group as we can muster, get together next week to discuss the major issues emerging from the staff survey and to develop means of getting further feedback and more constructive comments so that we can move forward.
5.2 Advisory Committee Membership
This month's Centre's Advisory Committee member is:
Miss Margaret Feilman
Margaret Feilman has had a highly successful professional career as an architect, town planner and landscape designer. Her interests and deep commitment in Australian native plants extends into her landscaping and gardening. She has been involved in various activities of the National Trust, has close associations with Deakin University through trusteeships, and has been a Commissioner of the Australian Heritage Commission. She is an active art collector and has a very prominent art collection. Her broad knowledge of the Australian environment and conservation issues and her links with business and industry make Margaret Feilman a strong contributing member of the Advisory Committee.
5.3 Centre Library News
"List of Serials 1998" from CSIRO Black Mountain Library is now in the library. It is spiral bound for easier and frequent use. Please ensure that the copies stay in the library. We have a second set of Flora Vitiensis Nova and more importantly we have a comprehensive index for each set.
5.4 Visit by Roger Beale
Roger Beale (Secretary, EA) visited the Centre with Peter Bridgewater on Monday, 27 April from 11:00am-12:30pm. Tim Richmond also attended.
Judy and the Executive Committee conducted a tour of the Herbarium which incorporated a program involving consideration of aspects of the collections, (IT - data management - botanic databases), research work on orchids, utilisation of native species (cotton), EUCLID, and conservation genetics including consequences for management of the Tumut Grevillea.
Mr Beale was presented with a plant of Grevillea iaspicula which is currently being produced at local nurseries.
6. Other News
6.1 World List of Threatened Plants Launched
At the ANBG on 9 April, Roger Beale, Secretary of the Department of the Environment, performed the Australian launch of the 1997 IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants. The List, the first of its kind to be published that gives data on a world wide scale, includes data for 33, 798 species of vascular plants from 200 countries. Data for 5,000 taxa of Australian plants was supplied to IUCN from the National Threatened Flora Database, maintained by CPBR and Environment Australia.
6.2 Flora of Australia Vol. 12
Flora of Australia vol. 12, Mimosaceae (excluding Acacia), Caesalpiniaceae went to press on 22 December 1997, and is expected to be available in early May. It covers 38 genera, 153 species and 16 'form taxa' in the two families, and consists of 213 pages, with 64 colour illustrations and 32 pages of line drawings. Both families have a heavy bias towards tropical regions, although Caesalpiniaceae is well represented in arid and semiarid regions through the shrubby genus Senna. Both families treated have a sizeable number of taxa represented in horticulture. An innovation in this volume has been the recognition of form taxa in Senna, to try to deal with the problems engendered by the complicated breeding system of many taxa in that genus. The combination of polyploidy, hybridisation and polyembryony found in many arid zone populations makes Linnean taxonomic treatments unworkable, and it will be interesting to discover how this innovative approach of Barbara Randell and Bryan Barlow is received.
The book can be ordered from CSIRO Publishing, PO Box 1139, Collingwood VIC 3066; email: sales @publish.csiro.au; fax: (03) 9662 7555. Price: Hard cover $69.95, soft cover $54.95.
6.3 ANBG Library News
The ANBG Library has printed a list of journals held in the library. Please phone Catherine or Linda on 6250 9480 to request a copy.
Botanical Art Books
With the launch of the Bauer Exhibition "An Exquisite Eye" at the National Library in Canberra on Monday, 27 April, we thought we might draw your attention to the collection of botanical art books held in the ANBG Library. A sample of the books available for loan includes:
"An Exquisite Eye : the Australian Flora & Fauna Drawings 1801-1820 of Ferdinand Bauer" by Peter Watts, Jo Anne Pomfrett and David Mabberley. Historic Houses Trust of NSW, Glebe, 1997. 741.092 BAU
"The Art of Botanical Illustration" New edition by Wilfrid Blunt and William T. Stearn. Antique Collectors' Club in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London, 1994. 743.934 BLU
"Historical Drawings of Native Flowers" by Harriet and Helena Scott, introduced and selected by Marion Ord. Craftsman House, Roseville, NSW, 1988. 743.7 SCO
"Baudin in Australian Waters : the Artwork of the French Voyage of Discovery to the Southern Lands 1800-1804" edited by Jacqueline Bonnemains, Elliott Forsyth and Bernard Smith. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1988. 741.44 BAU
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research
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