For the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers
1. Herbarium and Services
1.1 Public Plant Identifications
IDs determined 7
1.2 Anthony Whalen Goes Full-time
Anthony Whalen has now joined Program C full-time (as from 26 October). Anthony was formerly divided between his duties with us as Identifications Officer and his other half in ANBG Visitor Services Section.
The change results from a complicated game of musical chairs involving a number of ANBG positions. The net result is that Program C is back at a full staffing level for the first time in 2 years (hooray!).
Anthony will continue in his ID Officer role, coordinating responses to external (non-ANBG) botanical enquiries. He will also be curating a swag of families including Cyperaceae, Restionaceae, and other horrible monocots, and assisting one day per week in the Loans area.
1.3 Loans and Exchange in October
Loans received - 12 (1683 sheets), mostly Pultenaea for Rogier de Kok.
Loans returned to CANB - 3 (402 sheets). These were Polygonaceae sent to G. Perry and Fabaceae sent to T. Lally in PERTH, and lichens sent to N. Sammy at DNA.
Loans transferred by CANB - 7 (461 sheets), including type photography, all being Asteraceae and Rubiaceae sent to BISH for Chris Puttock.
68 specimens received by CANB
Helen Hadobas: 3 days pw over 5 days
1.4 Herbarium Volunteers
The morning tea for Herbarium Volunteers which I have mentioned before is to be held on Friday 20 November at 10.30 am. At this morning tea we would like to recognise the contribution of some of our longer serving members of the Program. All members of staff are welcome to join us.
I should also mention that the annual lunch for all ANBG volunteers (including the Herbarium Volunteers) hosted by ANBG is to be held on Tuesday, 1 December.
Since my last piece in the Newsletter we have taken on four more people.
They are -
Several more have shown an interest and I hope to start them next month. The more, the merrier! ......and the quicker my steps around the corridors.
2. Research Groups2.1 More on the Monocots Conference - a techo's eye view
In the last CPBR News, Randy Bayer briefly reviewed the second International Conference on Comparative Biology of the Monocotyledons and Third International Symposium on Grass Systematics and Evolution, which was held at the University of New South Wales from 28 September to 2 October 1998. I was afforded the privilege of attending by virtue of having worked both on grasses and on orchids over the past 7 years, and came away with a much better appreciation of the nature and scope of the science of systematics and comparative biology at least as applied to this apparently under-researched group of plants. This account of some observations made and new knowledge gained is offered in appreciation of the opportunity to attend, with apologies to cladists and molecular systematists for any misuse of terminology.
Several other Centre, CSIRO-PI, ANBG and ABRS staff also attended for all or part of the week, and from this group papers were presented by Jim Mant (as mentioned previously), Rudi Appels, Mark Clements and Richard Groves. About 270 delegates attended from all parts of the world with the exception of Middle Eastern and most former Communist Bloc countries, with sizeable contingents from the UK, US, South America and slightly fewer from South Africa (including Peter Linder who spent a couple of years with us in the early 90's), New Zealand, Japan, other European countries, Canada, Mexico, Philippines, etc. Almost 150 papers, of which I heard about 48, and around 100 posters were presented. Usually there were 3 sessions running at once - General, Grasses, and Special Groups such as palms, orchids, sedges, Aroids etc.
For me the most striking feature of the conference was evidence of the increasing availability and ease of use of molecular techniques - several different gene loci from the plastid and nuclear genomes may now be routinely sampled and sequenced. Of the 20 odd papers I heard which presented cladograms, 15 used morphological/anatomical (structural) characters and 18 used molecular characters. Eight presented combined trees, while others compared trees visually. Often cladograms based on molecular characters (sometimes from several gene sequences) combined with structural characters yielded more statistically significant and intuitively appealing classifications. One paper (by Jerry Davis of Cornell University) examined the entire family Poaceae using 8 data sets, with considerable congruence between trees based on individual datasets and various combinations thereof. In contrast, John Freudenstein of Kent State University found that the Vanilloids (a monophyletic distinctive but diverse group of climbing and/or saprophytic orchids) changed position substantially when morphological data was added to 3 genomic datasets of the Orchidaceae.
In many papers, the incidence of particular characters previously thought or used to divide taxa into groups was highlighted on the resultant trees, and sometimes indicated the artificiality of such groupings. Inflorescence structure in grasses was one such character mentioned more than once. In the subfamily Chloridoideae, different authors using structural data and matK sequences respectively, agreed that the subfamily itself is monophyletic, while its largest traditionally accepted genus, Eragrostis, is not. Not surprisingly, many grass systematists have embraced molecular techniques enthusiastically, but for some groups such as Pooids it was stated that further collection of missing structural data and chromosome numbers could assist greatly in resolving phylogenies.
Not all papers presented hypothesised phylogenies. Some illuminated many previously little considered or known biological, micromorphological and chemical characters, such as Calcium oxalate crystal forms, cell wall composition, embryo type and pollinator specificity. Still others, especially from non-Western countries, simply presented the range of diversity and habitat of particular groups, some of which most of us are unlikely ever to see at first hand, and their distributions and/or centres of endemism. These and the need to study higher level taxa on a world-wide basis indicated the importance of cooperation between researchers in the international community, as material of some taxa from certain countries is difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise.
North American workers are scratching to assemble biogeographic data for all the grasses from a variety of sources, including word of mouth, so that distributions may be mapped on a county basis (a rather variable mapping unit with the 311 counties ranging in size from 2 to 27,000 square km). A complete absence of data from some counties was evidenced by hard straight lines on maps of grass tribe distributions. To me, this was an indication of the value of the Australian specimen databases, which when reasonably complete and combinable between states and territories, should provide a much more powerful and complete dataset for biogeographical analyses.
Some ecological and conservation issues for grasslands of the tropical, north temperate and south temperate regions were addressed in 3 papers on the final afternoon, leaving us wondering how much longer it would be possible to study natural biogeography other than from historical records. Bob Shaw of Colorado State University reported that the North American hybrid v4.0 model, which predicts changes in the distribution of 7 vegetation types over the next 100 years with a continuation of current rates of growth of population and carbon dioxide levels, indicated a decline in the area of tropical savanna from 17% to 1% of the land surface, with desertification in the other 16%, including large tracts of northern Australia and central Africa.
Following are a few interesting snippets (not direct quotes) from other papers presented at the conference:
¸ Philip Harris of the University of Auckland reported that presence or absence of ester-linked ferrulic acid in cell walls divides the monocots roughly in half, and maps neatly onto rbcL cladograms, with presence being a more derived condition. All dicots except the Caryophyllaceae lack ferrulic acid.
¸ According to Mahinda Martinez of Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro, dams built in Mexico in the 16th century have a diverse natural vegetation, including aquatic monocots, while more recent ones are weedy. Lowland ponds usually present for 6 to 8 months of the year did not form last year due to exceptionally dry conditions.
¸ Weiping Zhang from the USA revealed that one species of herbaceous bamboo has between 6 and 40 stamens per floret and is insect pollinated. There are 60 to 80 genera and 1100 species of woody bamboos, the tallest reaching 30 m in height. (Yes, these are grasses).
¸ In discussion following a presentation, Phillip Cribb of RBG, Kew, mentioned a well-intentioned but misguided attempt at conservation of a rare orchid in Britain, in which the rare and a common species were accidentally cross-pollinated, resulting in a hybrid swarm which replaced the rare species in the wild.
3. Information Technology and Data Management3.1 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 Plant Names Project (PNP)
The Plant Names Project has been concentrating on building systems for the Index Kewensis editorial staff and on training and involving these staff in the process. There will be a workshop of project editorial staff at Harvard in December this year. As we will be appointing editors and joining this part of the project later than Kew and Harvard, the Centre will not be involved in this workshop, but will participate at a time when it will be more relevant and have more impact.
3.3 Herbarium databases (ANHSIR and APNI)
During this month Terena Lally joined Kirsten Cowley in completing the APNI entries for Extinct, Endangered and Vulnerable Australian plants. So far they have completed almost half of the c. 1,100 species in these categories. Greg Whitbread has been modifying the application in response to problems encountered and advice for improvement.
Data entry staff Pennie Hohnen and Julie Paul have started meeting informally with IT staff Greg Whitbread and John Hook, once a week, over coffee at the Gardens, to talk through problems that may have come up during the week and keep in touch with progress and changes to the system.
Greg has been wrestling routines to load supposedly HISPID compliant data that we have received from Sydney, Melbourne, and lately Adelaide, with exchange specimens. Once in place, these routines will save redoing data entry that has already been done at the donor institution.
Pennie and Julie are now reasonably comfortable that the new ANHSIR system is storing their data properly and other herbarium staff are using the application for enquiries. Greg is now working on generating label outputs, both draft and final, which when complete will enable the final cutover to take place.
3.4 Curation Table
The 'Curation Table' database outlined in the last newsletter has been completed by John Hook, at least to the point where herbarium staff are able to use it. It represents a list of names of all families, and many of the genera that we have to deal with in the collections, with details of their current state of incorporation and identification. All the existing data from the old systems has been loaded, and for the most part, integrated. There are a number of duplicate and incomplete entries that will require manual attention. The application was extended to include pointers to names as they are currently used for filing in the herbarium, and flags as to the Australian or exotic occurrence of the families or genera.
To test the system, all old and currently accepted names of pteridophytes and gymnosperms were entered, both Australian and exotic, along with abbreviated references to current literature needed to be applied to the collection. Other parts of the database will be fleshed out by herbarium and data entry staff and group curators as we work through their parts of the collection. Jo Palmer is co-ordinating the content and use of this application. Over the next month it will be made available for general staff use.
3.5 New Computers / Upgrades
The new computers and upgrades as a result of our successful equipment bid, foreshadowed in the last newsletter has started to happen. New computers are arriving and old ones are being taken away and coming back different, and hopefully better. Cathy Miller is coordinating this and keeping in touch with the IT unit. Contact Cathy if you have any questions about what is going on, and where.
4. Education and Communication4.1 Welcome Barry Brown
As a follow-on to the announcement that "Anthony Whalen goes full-time", he will be replaced in Visitor Services at the Gardens by Barry Brown who has a graphic design background.
Anthony will take the botanical aspects of the old position with him to the Centre; Barry will bring new design and graphic skills to the Interpretation Unit for display preparation, interpretive publications and out-door interpretation.
5. General Centre Matters5.1 Herbarium Space
Over the next six months or so the Centre will see the arrival of three new post-doctoral fellows, the interns, six summer scholarships and a range of other students and visitors. As a consequence, space is at a premium and all staff and visitors are asked to be as helpful as possible in fitting in with any minor adjustments that are necessary.
5.2 Centre Advisory Committee Meeting
The next Advisory Committee meeting will be held at the Centre on Thursday, 5 November. One of the agenda items deals with the Centre Review. Members of the Advisory Committee have been asked to read the review documentation and suggested responses and as part of the implementation process, advise on the actions needed.
The Advisory Committee will also be asked to give advice on the Strategic Plan and suggest resource options for sponsorship proposals.
At these meetings, the Centre usually presents information to the Advisory Committee to keep them up to date with Centre activities. This time there will be three presentations:
¸ Host-microbes (Pete Thrall)
¸ 300 Years of Botanical Illustration (Helen Hewson)
5.3 Wednesday Morning Staff Meetings
Judy West suggested that we trial a new format for the Wednesday morning meetings. Peter Moore has been asked to act as Facilitator. Staff should bring any issues they would like discussed at the meeting to Peter's attention. As well, a more formal staff meeting will be held every 3 months to discuss major issues. This will be chaired on a rotational basis by the Executive Committee, with the first one being planned for early December. [Suzie Dietrich]
5.4 Summer Student Scholarships
The 1998-99 Summer Scholarship program has got off to a flying start. Six positions are being offered this year. Three of these are funded directly by the Centre while the remaining three are individually funded by Parks Victoria, the Cotton CRC and Environment ACT. Summer scholars will be working with Curt Brubaker, Rogier de Kok, Malcolm Gill, Pete Thrall, Tony Willis and Andrew Young. Curt, Malcolm and Andrew are to be congratulated for winning external funds to support the program. All the students have accepted their offer of a scholarship and will start at the beginning of December.
John Vranjic has just learnt that he has been successful in obtaining a ten week summer studentship from the Weeds CRC. Congratulations John!
5.5 Interns Program Planning for the 1999 Interns intake is proceeding on schedule. Following a reduced application rate last year, our campus liaison arrangements have been completely renewed, and over 1,200 recruitment brochures are being reliably distributed on over 30 campuses.
Brendan Lepschi is organising the schedule for the Interns, which will be along similar lines to previous years. Staff wishing to bid for intern assistance are reminded to contact Bob or Brendan as soon as possible.
6. Other News6.1 Heads of Herbaria Meeting - CHAH
We will be hosting the annual meeting of the Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria this year, from 10-12 November. CHAH brings together the various government herbaria, plus observer representatives from ABRS, the university herbaria, the mycological collections, and the New Zealand Herbarium Network.
As usual, CHAH will be looking at issues of funding, coordination, and cooperation. The first day this year will be an off-site retreat to focus on developing a promotional strategy for the herbaria.
6.2 Assistant Gardens Curator
I am very pleased to be able to now announce that John Nightingale has been selected to take the position of Assistant Gardens Curator (Assistant Director Living Collections - Horticulture, as it was when Leslie Lockwood held it down). He won the job against stiff competition and brings along a high level of energy, integrity, expertise in people management, and horticulture generally. I look forward to working with John in his new capacity and I am confident these same feelings are shared throughout the Gardens. Congratulations John.
6.3 ANBG Library
The following books are recent additions to the ANBG Library. If you would like to have a closer look, contact Linda Harris on 6250 9480.
¸ Weed navigator / Kate Blood ... [et al.]. Glen Osmond, S. Aust. : Cooperative Research Centre for Weed Management Systems, 1998. 581.6520994 WEE [2 vols.]
¸ Alps invaders : weeds of the high country / edited by Geoff Sainty, John Hosking, Surrey Jacobs. [S.l.] : Australian Alps Liaison Committee, 1998. 581.652099447 ALP
¸ Plants of the Pitcairn Islands including local names & uses / Lars-Ake Gothesson. Sydney : Centre for South Pacific Studies, University of New South Wales, 1997. 581.99618 GOT
7. Diary of Events/Activities5 Nov
Centre Advisory Committee meeting
The next Centre Advisory Committee meeting will be held in the Map Room on Thursday, 5 Nov from 10am-3pm.
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research
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