For the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers
1. Herbarium and Services
1.1 Databasing of Herbarium Specimens
As of the 19th April, 1999, Julie Paul - Herbarium Registrar, will be working Monday and Thursday in the Herbarium on the ANBG site on CRYPTOGAMS, and Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday on the CSIRO site on VASCULAR specimens. For the next couple of months I will also possibly be spending some extra time at the ANBG site to database FERNS & GYMNOSPERMS.
For those unable to find me on Wednesday morning, I am attending college (some might say sanity break, but I beg leave to differ!!).
After four weeks leave I am ready to tackle it all again, though it does tend to build up in my absence, so please, be patient, if you have given me work, I will do it!!
2. Research Groups
2.1 Welcome to Clive Bock
Clive Bock will be working at the Centre for three years as a post-doc employed on a GRDC grant to work on sources of variation in the scald pathogen Rhynchosporium secalis. Clive's work follows on from a Visiting Scientist position held by Bruce McDonald two years ago. Clive will work with Jeremy Burdon, Tony Brown and Ruth Genger on the scald project.
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.
4. Education and Communication
4.1 Rain Forest Key Launch
The launch of the CD ROM on Australian Tropical Rain Forest Trees and Shrubs has been scheduled for Monday, 17 May at the Australian National Library. Dr Malcolm McIntosh has been invited to launch the Rain Forest Key.
5. General Centre Matters
5.1 Staff meetings
Following discussions re communication and suggestions from the external review team, we decided to hold some more formal staff meetings probably three or four times each year. The idea of these meetings is to provide a more formal avenue for discussion of major issues that arise from time to time, and which affect most staff of the Centre.
We plan to advertise the meetings well ahead and to have particular issues for discussion.
I would like to hold the first of these Staff Meetings on:
The Strategic Plan
All staff are of course invited to attend and to take part.
So that you are well informed, we will distribute a summary table this week which brings together the input and responses, progress and actions relating to all the recommendations from the External Review.
5.2 Strategic Plan
Lucy Blackburn is in the last stages of mapping out a draft strategic plan for the Centre. She finishes with us May 21. Thank you to those who have been involved in some of the strategic planning discussions - there will be more!
We have mapped out a schedule for the next 3 weeks including:
Friday, May 14 - 10:30am, Presentation to staff of Strategic Plan outline and content by Lucy.
(Draft copies to be available for staff).
Comments will need to be with her by 19th for incorporation into final draft version.
Wednesday, May 19 - 10:30 am, Staff meeting. Discussion re Strategic Plan
Friday, May 21 - 11:30 am Executive Committee meeting with Lucy for final wrap-up having taken account of and incorporated staff comments
5.3 CHAH Technician's Workshop (April 19-25)
From time to time the Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria has run workshops for herbarium technicians. The one just completed here in Canberra and run by the Centre concentrated on Cryptogamic plants. The aim was to provide some information on field collection, herbarium curation, and identification methods.
In all 18 people partook of the entire course. Four more dropped in for parts of the course. We attracted participants from New Zealand, from Universities and from private enterprise, as well as the main stream State Herbaria.
We had 16 different presenters, including Patrick McCarthy, Jack Elix, Cheryl Grgurinovic, Ken Thomas, Mary Scotnicki and Heino Lepp from Canberra. Interstate presenters included Tom May from Melbourne; Tim Entwisle, Elizabeth Brown, Patricia Selkirk, Alison Downing and David Eldridge from Sydney; and, Graham Bell from Adelaide.
The workshop kept Heinar Streimann and Judith Curnow very busy for many hours in both organising, presenting, and servicing the Workshop.
While we perhaps took on too much [too many very difficult groups (bryophytes, fungi, lichens and freshwater algae), too many students, too little time] we do feel that we gave sufficient grounding, supported with "where to look it up" material, to have made the experience of value to all of the participants.
And, how about the weather we put on over the long weekend for the field days!?
6. Other News
6.1 The History of Natural History Illustration
The Society for the History of Natural History held its 12th International Conference entitled Drawing from Nature: Art and Illustration in the Natural History Sciences. I felt compelled to attend being as I have been drawn into studying the subject and reckoned that such an opportunity may not arise again in my lifetime. It was held at the Natural History Museum, London. The opening lecture was given by Martin Kemp (Professor of the History of Art, University of Oxford). He spoke on On Growth and Form: persistent perceptions of natural geometry from Renaissance to now. Kemp writes on Science and Art in Nature. I am going to have to look at it! Meanwhile phyllotaxy got a thorough going over.
This talk set the scene - lots of art historians reading papers that were too long and designed to be read and not prepared for an oral presentation. Some presented interpretations which were challenging, some were straight informative, and a few very entertaining. All were very well illustrated and we were thus treated to an extraordinary range of images far beyond that which our own library holds.
Thanks to Nick Alexander (CSIRO Publishing) I met Margaret Stones (ex-patriot Australian artist working for (not at) Kew). I counted this a special privilege and found that she was very glad of Australian company. Margaret, Helen Cohn (Librarian at Melbourne Herbarium), Sara Joynes (National Library of Australia working at Australia House) and I formed an Australian clique and were frequently to be seen together at the conference. There were others who I knew, mostly Librarians in the significant places in England. Among the botanists there was Gren Lucas and among the elders was William Stearn (now fairly frail but quite forceful and revered in the context of the conference). William gave a short after dinner speech at the Conference Dinner. He spoke mostly about the history of the Society - he being a foundation member. Interestingly it was formed to help drive bibliographical work - the benefits of which we enjoy these days.
The dinner was held at the Royal College of Surgeons. This was quite grand and interesting. The reception before hand was held in the John Hunter Museum - a large room displaying lots of medical specimens, curiosities, and natural history specimens. Hunter died in 1793 and in those days surgeons were natural historians as well as medicos. Hunters Museum reflects this. There was an Australian connection. William Paterson (of Patersonia and other taxon fame) was responsible for obtaining a giraffe for Hunter. I am uncertain if the giraffe was alive or just a skin and a bone - "the Camelopardialis in an upright position" - is a surviving drawing of the creature.
Have you ever given any consideration to the possibility that the Tree of Knowledge was a forerunner to cladistics? Annarita Angelini (Department of Philosophy, Bologna) did not present that argument but did state, "Thanks to its ability of bringing a variety of elements to a common trunk, the tree remained in the course of ages the favourite image for representing human knowledge."
Perhaps the most disturbing observation was made by Sachiko Kusukawa (History & Philosophy of Science, Cambridge) of the Herbals - "In the sixteenth century, there was hardly any consensus as to the function or representational power illustrations could have." Sachiko even regarded these drawings as not being used for the reliable identification of herbs. So another long standing myth bit the dust!
All round the conference was a worthwhile experience and certainly extended my view/appreciation of the legacy of the art which I have been trying to document over the past year or so. I also recommend the Society to anyone interested in the history of our science.
7. Diary of Events/Activities
Mar - Aug
21 Apr-1 Jun
12 Jun - 12 Jul
13 Jul - 22 Aug
31 Jul - 8 Aug
29 Aug - 13 Sep
Aug 1999 - Aug 2001
Sep 1999 - Feb 2000
Nov 1999 - end of Feb 2000
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research
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