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- CPBR News 8-

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

For the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers

September, 1998

1. Herbarium and Services

1.1 Herbarium Curatorial Progress

While work continues on trialing the new database screens and drafting procedures documentation, there is actually some real curation happening in the vascular collections. Groups completed this month include: Bataceae, Gyrostemonaceae, Moringaceae, Resedaceae, Tovariaceae, Diplolaena in the Rutaceae and about half of the Brassicaceae. Portions of the Acanthaceae, Boraginaceae, Lauraceae, Malvaceae, Monimiaceae and Zygophyllaceae have also received curatorial attention.

The entire holdings of Grevillea have also been rechecked and where necessary redetermined against the Flora of Australia treatment (now completed) and changes will be made on the database over the next couple of months. There are many new names (MS until publication of the Flora volume next year) and many Living Collection vouchers have also been redetermined.

[Bob Makinson, Brendan Lepschi]

1.2 Botanical Intern Program 1999

Planning and recruitment are underway for the next batch of Interns. A flash version of the recruitment brochure has been produced and distributed to campuses.

As usual, the Interns will concentrate on Program C (Herbarium) work, but we will attempt to provide some direct assistance to research programs as well. CPBR staff in Programs A or B who would like to bid for some Intern labour next February should talk to both Bob and Brendan as soon as possible. We'll then try to balance your bid against others and the priority curatorial work, and talk further with you.

We will need an outline of the work you would like to deploy them on, a commitment to have the work pre-organised and ready to go, an estimate of how much intern time you will need, and your agreement to give the interns some orientation (e.g. lecture or seminar) that will be of learning value to them.

We prefer to deploy the interns in teams of two or three. There needs to be a genuine net gain to you (after teaching and supervision time) from using the interns - we are not looking for make-work schemes. They will still be receiving some teaching sessions in February, so their time in work project areas will not be uninterrupted.

[Bob Makinson]

1.3 Volunteers Conference

The 8th National Conference on Volunteering was held in Canberra on 23 and 24 September. Bob Makinson gave a short seminar and participated in a panel discussion in the "Environment & Conservation" section, outlining our two volunteer programs. This was the only involvement of a primarily scientific organisation in the session.

[Bob Makinson]

1.4 Loans

We sent 6 loans (359 sheets), and received 4 loans (225 sheets) in September.

9 loans (317 sheets) were returned to us and we returned or transferred 15 loans (347 sheets), including 4 of Chris Puttock's loans. This involved photography of type specimens prior to return.

538 specimens were sent out and 752 specimens were received on exchange.

Only a quarter of the Daviesia loans now remain to be processed for return, thanks to Ann's single handed effort!

[Helen Hadobas]

2. Research Groups

2.1 Post Doctoral Fellowship in Rarity

Welcome to Brad Murray, who is just starting a 3 year postdoctoral fellowship with the Centre. His office is in the Herbarium (room 2.28). Brad will be working on the evolutionary ecology of rare versus common plant species, with a particular focus on trying to understand how abundance and distribution relates to plant life history. Part of his project will involve using ROTAP and other data bases to do some comparative work. Brad completed his PhD with Mark Westoby at Macquarie University in Sydney, and is now looking forward to the quiet life in Canberra!

[Pete Thrall]

2.2 Curt Brubaker - Indefinite Appointment

Curt Brubaker has been granted indefinite appointment after a successful presentation to a conclave. He will complete his work on a cotton grant over the next two years and then move to the systematics research area. Congratulations Curt.

2.3 Summer Scholarships

Applications for the Summer Scholarships have been received and will be processed shortly. This year we received 26 applications. Of the six proposed projects, we expect to be able to fund three.

2.4 Monocots Conference

A number of us from CPBR attended the Second International Conference on the Comparative Biology of the Monocotyledons and Third International Symposium on Grass Systematics and Evolution in Sydney during the week of September 27. Monocots II allowed participants to present and discuss the latest research into the comparative biology and classification of the monocots, both at higher levels and within particular groups such as grasses, sedges, aroids, palms and orchids. This conference followed the successful 1993 conference "Monocotyledons: Classification and Evolution" held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

The first day was devoted to general presentations on the phylogeny of the monocots overall and their relationship to the dicots. The following days were devoted to discussions of various groups of monocots, but dominated by the larger groups, the grasses and orchids. Data from a variety of sources were presented, including anatomical, chemistry of secondary compounds, micro- and macromorphology, and molecular data. It was obvious that a large body of new information appeared since the last conference and that substantial changes to the classification of most monocot groups will result. I have a copy of the abstracts from the conference if anyone wishes to see them. You can review details of the conference at:


[Randy Bayer]

2.5 Spinifex Paper

Jim Mant presented a paper entitled A phylogeny of "Spinifex" at the Monocots II Conference in Sydney.

[Jim Mant]

3. Information Technology and Data Management

3.1 WWW Site

The URL for the Centre can be found at: http://www.anbg.gov/cpbr/

Please check regularly for new items of interest re Centre staff and activities.

3.2 APNI Data Entry Position

Terena Lally has been appointed to the APNI Data Entry Position funded by ABRS and will begin mid October, full time for 10 months.

3.3 Plant Names Project (PNP)

The consortium of the Harvard University Herbaria, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and the Australian National Herbarium have been successful in their grant application the to US National Science Foundation to fund the next stage of the Plant Names Project. This project will combine the databases, data and resources of Index Kewensis, the Harvard Gray Cards and the Australian Plant Name Index into a single application jointly managed and maintained by the three organisations and updated in real time across the world.

Jim Croft attended the first planning meeting of this stage of the project in Kew, with staff from Kew and Harvard. A preliminary project plan was drawn up with time tables to enable demonstration of a working model of the International Plant Name Index (IPNI) at the International Botanical Congress in Saint Louis at the end of July next year.

As part of the NSF grant, the Centre will be able to employ some programmer time to develop the systems and interfaces needed to link APNI with IPNI as well as some technical editor time to help bring the standards of APNI data in line with requirements of the global project.

[Jim Croft]

3.4 Taxonomic Databases Working Group (TDWG)

While in London, Jim Croft attended the annual meeting of the Taxonomic Databases Working Group (TDWG) of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS), immediately following the PNP planning meeting. This group concerns itself with developing or endorsing standards relevant to the use of data in biological databases and includes a floating membership of both botanists and zoologists. Apart from the routine business of the working group, there were workshops on data strikers, authority files and other items of information standardisation, as well as on-line demonstrations of several biological database applications.

[Jim Croft]

3.5 Herbarium databases (ANHSIR and APNI)

The new ANHSIR and APNI database applications were refined by Greg Whitbread and John Hook during the month in response to user input at a number of herbarium and database meetings. They were installed on additional machines for staff to use and evaluate. Key staff are getting more comfortable with the applications but there are still a number of steps to be gone through before the plug is pulled on the legacy systems for all but archival queries. The data needs to be reloaded to correct some mistakes from the initial load and to import the new collections data; and new output forms need to be created to accommodate label printing and loan lists. On the last point, following a series of drafts and deliberations, herbarium staff have agreed the final format of the combined herbarium label. Greg and John will be working on the printed output during the coming month.

[Jim Croft]

3.6 Curation Table - documenting where we are

With the increased enthusiasm for messing around with the collections, the specimens and the databases, it is becoming increasingly important to know the state of play and who is doing what. John Hook, Jo Palmer and Jim Croft have developed a simple application to track the state of play. It has places for data on:

    Genera within families
    Families within orders/groups
    Family numbers
    Family storage units locations/numbers
    Family curatorial responsibilities
    References for taxonomic curation
    Date of indexing
    Date of curating
    Date of databasing
    Date of mounting
    Completion flags for various activities
    Backlog flags for various activities
    Record entry and update information

Initially this data set is being populated with data from databases maintained in the ANBG and PI, taking the fields and values from each. There is likely to be a bit of duplication that will need to be assessed and edited, but it is not a very large data set, and will be continually updated and corrected by herbarium staff as they go about their work in the collections. It is expected that staff will add to this database as they start and finish a task in the herbarium and that it will be an up to date repository of information about the collections and work being done on them.

The preliminary application is complete, the PI data has been loaded already and the ANBG data is being loaded now. It will be shown to herbarium staff this week and demonstrated to the Centre after the first round of feedback and modification.

[Jim Croft]

3.7 Year 2000 testing

During the month, staff from the Environment Australian Year 2000 Office tested all the PCs on the ANBG network, including those in the Centre, for Year 2000 compliance. Special software advanced the system dates and checked whether the date functions were handled properly before, during and after the change of the millennium. Roughly half the machines were found to be Year 2000 compliant in that they will continue working without human intervention, and the remainder were found to be Year 2000 compatible in that the date will have to be manually reset in the year 2000; none failed.

PCs on the CSIRO PI network will be tested at a later date.

[Jim Croft]

3.8 New Computers/Upgrades

The Centre was successful in its bid to Plant Industry's equipment budget to purchase a number of new computers for newly arrived staff and to have a number of its older PCs upgraded to enable them to run Windows 95, Windows NT, or better. The reason for this upgrade is that we need to make the new herbarium database application available on staff desks, and a modern operating system is required. All the dumb terminals in the herbarium will be removed and replaced as they will no longer be able to access the database. Cathy Miller has been ordering the new computers and the upgrade parts.

In addition to this, Environment Australia is migrating its PC operating systems from Windows 3.1 to Windows NT. All the old PCs on the ANBG network will be replaced between now and the end of the year as part of this process.

[Jim Croft]

3.9 IT Outsourcing

Under Government Direction, Environment Australia is preparing to outsource (a euphemism for sell off and buy back) all or most of its Information Technology infrastructure. This includes the network, hardware, office automation and other software/ applications and extends to the ANBG computers and network in the Centre. All of the computers on peoples' desks and the software on them and used by them will be part of this exercise. Hopefully just the ownership and management of these facilities will change hands with no disruption to services and no loss of quality of service. At the moment we are negotiating about whether the herbarium databases and the servers on which they run are part of this exercise or not and how they will be serviced and managed. We will keep you posted.

The CSIRO PI Network is not part of this outsourcing exercise, but outsourcing is the ideological flavour of the moment and it is sweeping through CSIRO as well.

[Jim Croft]

3.10 Botanical Information Liaison Group (BILG)

Continues to meet monthly and do very useful work in maintaining technical liaison between the Centre and the ANBG. At the moment the focus is on database issues, and access to plant name information, but the group also covers all practical aspects of communication and service delivery between the Centre and the Gardens. See Andrew Lyne, Brendan Lepschi or John Hook if you want any items placed on the agenda.

[Jim Croft]

4. Education and Communication

5. General Centre Matters

5.1 Centre Review

Thanks to those staff who have commented on the suggestions put forward re implementation of the Centre Review recommendations. Your comments have been taken into account and most will be incorporated into the version to be distributed to the Board members.

We are hoping to hold a phone hookup of the Board in the next two weeks to discuss and identify those particular items from the Review that we wish the Advisory Committee to consider at the next AC meeting November 5.

[Judy West]

5.2 NHM Review

Judy West took part in the review of the Floras and Faunas Theme of the Natural History Museum, London last week. The NHM is somewhat similar to CSIRO in its matrix structure in that it has science departments (Botany, Zoology, Entomology, Geology) and horizontal themes running across the departments - e.g. the Floras and Faunas - not unlike our Sectors. The NHM itself is a similar size to Plant Industry now, with a very different management system. Reviewing a relatively small slice of all the activities is quite difficult, but it was very useful to be able to look at another scientific institution like our own. The report from the review should be completed in the next two weeks.

I also took the opportunity to explore further liaison between the Centre and both Kew and the NHM; I was pleased that I managed some specimen work, mainly in Stellaria, in the herbaria at both the NHM and at Kew. As usual there was considerable interest in EUCLID and LucID from workers in groups from plants to polychaete worms.

[Judy West]

6. Other News

6.1 ABRS Website

ABRS maintains a Website at http://www.anbg.gov.au/abrs

Several "publications" of use to Centre staff are available here:


Vascular Plants - for use with Flora of Australia and Species Plantarum
Lichens - for use with Flora of Australia Lichen volumes
Fungi - for use with Fungi of Australia

"Permit Requirements for the Collecting of Australian Plants and Animals" is available online, or as a Word 6 document to be downloaded. You may find it useful to refer enquiries from visiting botanists and other collectors to this page.


You can read a short history of ABRS or introductions to the Flora project and the Grants program, as well as a brief description of each of our publications. You can also order books either from ABRS (Flora Supplementary Series) or through a link to CSIRO publishing (all other publications in print).

Application forms for the Grants and Postgraduate Scholarships can be downloaded as Word 6 documents.

We also provide an online version of our annual newsletter "Biologue", which lists the grants awarded in the previous year and reports on the activities of ABRS and its Advisory and Editorial Committees. Recent and current ABRS achievements and activities are described on the page "What's NEWs at ABRS".

Future plans for online information include making the Flora "Guide for Contributors" and "Guide for Illustrators" available in PDF, to read onscreen or print out for your own use. We will also "reprint" Helen Hewson's "Plant Indumentum - a Handbook of Terminology", which has been out of print for several years.

Any suggestions for improving the content or navigation of the site are welcome.

[Annette Wilson]

6.2 Indonesian language CDs

A set of three CDs, two interactive language and the other on cultural aspects, is available for borrowing from Lyn Craven. If you are thinking of, or in the process of learning Indonesian, the two language CDs might well be useful to you. The cultural CD is definitely worth viewing if you are visiting Indonesia.

[Lyn Craven]

6.3 Lindsay Pryor Memorial Tribute

A memorial tribute for Lindsay Pryor will be held at the Australian National Botanic Gardens on the Eucalypt Lawn on Friday, 9 October at 11:00am.

6.4 ABRS Flora Section

Katy Mallett and Tony Orchard attended the Monocot Conference in Sydney, 27 September - 2 October.

The Flora Editorial Committee Meeting will be held 13-14 October at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

[Helen Thompson]

7. Diary of Events/Activities

Date - Event/Activity - Who - Details (relate to projects)

9 Oct
Lindsay Pryor Memorial
All welcome
A Memorial Tribute will be held on the Eucalypt Lawn at the ANBG on Friday, 9 October at 11:00 am to honour the late Lindsay Pryor.

10-31 Oct
Crop Science Society meeting - Baltimore
Tony Brown
Tony has been invited to give the opening address to the USDA-IPGRI sponsored symposium on core collections at the Crop Science Society meeting in Baltimore.

13-14 Oct
ABRS Flora Editorial Committee Meeting
Flora Editorial Committee Members
To be held at the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

21-22 Oct
Biodiversity Sector AC Meeting
Judy West on behalf of PI
Sector triennial planning and midterm reporting - to be held at Quarantine Station, Manly.

5 Nov
Centre Advisory Committee meeting
Advisory Committee
The next Centre Advisory Committee meeting will be held in the Map Room on Thursday, 5 Nov from 10am-3pm.

10-14 Nov
CHAH Meeting
Heads of Herbaria
CHAH meeting to be held at the ANH - one day retreat and two day meeting, followed by two, one day field trips.

16-17 Nov
BDAC Meeting
Judy West, Acting Chair
To be held in Canberra; particular focus on industry issues.

16 Nov
Post Doctoral Fellow
Elizabeth Watkin
Elizabeth to take up the 2-year post-doctoral position in legume-rhizobia interactions.

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

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Placed here 15 November, 1999 by Andrew Lyne
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