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Issue 43 - March/April 2002

News from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian National Herbarium (CANB), for the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers.

CPBR News is produced monthly. If you wish to contribute, please email your suggestions to Val Oliver, the coordinator.

Val Oliver: ph (02) 6246 5533; fax (02) 6246 5249; email:

1.          Herbarium

Curation Coordinator

Anthony Whalen has now been appointed Curation Coordinator in the Herbarium following selection from a competitive field of applicants from all over eastern Australian.  This was the position formerly occupied by myself from 1998, and is responsible for technical staff activity in the collections, organising and running the Student Botanical Internship Program, supervision of the Public Reference Herbarium and Identifications service, along with input into the Australian Plant Name Index, curatorial responsibilities and other duties in the Herbarium.

Anthony comes to this position with an excellent background in many aspects of herbarium life, gained through over 10 years of employment at both the National Herbarium of NSW and the Australian National Herbarium, including involvement in the Internship since 1997.  With Anthony’s appointment, I hope we can maintain the current levels of activity in the collections, and I look forward to an equally vibrant Internship Program in the coming years, especially now that someone else is organising it!

For anyone wanting to catch up with Anthony, his contact phone is 62465175 and he is located in Room 3.21 in the Herbarium.

[Brenda Lepschi]


Visit by Vijoleta Braach-Maksvytis

The Chair of the CSIRO Science Forum visited the Herbarium briefly on 29 April, as part of a wider visit to the Division.  Vijoleta Braach-Maksvytis is at the forefront of the cross-disciplinary field of nanotechnology and holds over 20 patents. She has a passionate belief in the global science leadership potential of CSIRO and Australia, and has a track record of harnessing cross-boundary knowledge.

Her interaction with the Centre was primarily to be briefed on the Australia’s Virtual Herbarium project, for which she showed a great deal of enthusiasm.  Judy West and Jim Croft demonstrated the new AVH interface and provided a progress report, and Judy took part in a broader discussion with a small number of other divisional staff, particularly postdocs since Vijoleta wanted to know more about how PI does business.

If you want to know more about the Science Forum try this site:

[Judy West]

2.          Research Groups

Visit of Jürgen Kellermann

Jürgen Kellermann visited the herbarium from the 8th-10th of April and managed to squeeze a lot of work into his short visit.  Jürgen is a PhD student from The University of Melbourne (School of Botany) and Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, working on the generic limits of the Australian Rhamnaceae, especially the tribe Pomaderreae (endemic to Australia & New Zealand) and related Australian genera.  While Jürgen was here he examined and photographed some of the Rhamnaceae collection, particularly specimens collected by Robert Brown, as he is preparing a paper/poster for the "Robert Brown 200 Conference" to be held in Sydney, May 2002.  Jürgen also took leaf samples for his molecular and SEM work, and on top of all that he had productive Rhamnaceae discussions with Judy West and toured the facilities of the Centre, both the herbarium and building 1.

[Gillian Brown]


Atherton Herbarium

David Jones and his wife Barbara have arrived in Atherton after a long drive.  They will be staying in the Atherton Research Station visitor accommodation.

We have received more emails from David in the two days since he arrived than I’ve had in 6 months, and he doesn’t even have a computer!  David will be based in Atherton until the end of August working on the Rainforest Key, especially the ferns and orchids, with Bruce Gray. 

His regular email address still works in Atherton, so don't let him lose contact... :)

In addition to working on the Rainforest Key, David will be overseeing the management and running of the collections of the herbarium.  One of the tasks will be to work out a way of processing a large number of undistributed duplicate specimens and sending them on to the recipient herbaria.

As part of their work David and Bruce will be spending a fair bit of time in the field, attempting to reach some difficult to access and botanically rich or interesting areas.  If you need anything special from that part of the world (taxa, photographs, seeds, live plants, material in spirit or CTAB, etc.) please let them know.

Bernie Hyland has also arrived back in Atherton after a very successful drive south for a couple of months rest and relaxation following his retirement.  Bernie is working part time as an Honorary Research Fellow on the Rainforest Key and identifying material.

Bernie will be going on a field trip to the Kimberly in June on one of the CALM expeditions led by Kevin Kenneally.  If you ask him very nicely he might look out for specimens for you.

[Judy West, Jim Croft]


CPBR Research Seminar series

The next seminar in the CPBR Research seminar series 2002 is to be presented by Lyn Craven on Sweeping the landscape: Broombush in Western Australia (Myrtaceae, Melaleuca uncinata and allies.  Venue: Herbarium seminar room 6 June at 12.30.

[Val Oliver]


3.          Education and Communication

Field Equipment and Safety on Remote Area Field Trips

In light of recent increased awareness of the OHS&E requirements by both CSIRO and EA and after discussion by the Herbarium Committee (HC), it was agreed that greater attention needs to be given to communication on multiple day field trips, particularly trips to remote areas. In the interests of Occupational Health and Safety, it is recommended that staff make regular phone contact with the herbarium, or their supervisor, during such trips. 

There is a need to maximise two-way communication, i.e. allowing the Centre to get messages to you and for you to get messages to the Centre.  Therefore you are asked to record the following details on the board at reception when you collect the vehicle:

(i)            overnight and multiple day trip itineraries;

(ii)        a phone number you can be contacted on, e.g. relatives’ home/mobiles taken on trip.

When phoning in from the field to the designated number, staff are reminded of the need to give an indication of when they will call in next and the next planned destinations.

Staff should contact the CPBR Reception phone number (02 6246 5108) and provide an update of their location during field trips.  Jenny and Val monitor this number during working hours and messages can be left on voicemail after hours. Voicemail is checked each morning so messages can be left at any time.

The CPBR has a portable satellite phone that up until now has rarely been used. The strong recommendation of the HC was that this phone should be taken on field trips where no other means of phoning in is anticipated. Many people have used mobile phones on field trips in the past and this by and large works well. Mobile phone coverage is improving all the time, however the more remote an area, the less likely a standard mobile phone is to be in range. The satellite phone on the other hand, has unlimited access. Peter Moore has offered to train staff in the use of this phone as needed.

An Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) is in each of the CSIRO and ANBG 4WD vehicles and one is available at Reception.  These beacons should be kept at all times by staff in the field when other communication is not available and should only be used in life threatening situations.  GPS units are also available from Reception for staff to borrow during field excursions.  The satellite phone, EPIRB and GPS equipment is stored in a locked cupboard and keys are available from Jennifer Bailey and/or Val Oliver.  A record of loan, similar to that currently in place for GPS equipment, will be maintained at Reception.

In the interests of increasing safety in the field, the Herbarium Committee hopes that staff will follow these simple procedures.

[Anthony Whalen and Peter Moore]


Robert Brown Symposium

Canberra has joined the round Australia celebration of the bicentenary of the circumnavigation of Australia by Matthew Flinders and his team of naturalists.   Albany, Adelaide, Hobart and Melbourne have all had their turn.   Canberra joined in, even though not of particular historical relevance to the voyage.

The Robert Brown Symposium was held on the 23rd April in the Discovery Centre and drew an audience of botanists, other scientists and some enthusiasts from the general public.   Three of our own staff (Richard Groves, Mark Clements and Helen Hewson) were joined by Maura O'Connor from the National Library and Ian Cresswell from ABRS, to present aspects of the voyage and the resultant science and scientific impacts.  In the evening David Mabberley of Jupitor Botanicus fame presented a riveting expose of Robert Brown, his life, his career and his particular legacy to the science of botany.

The following evening David gave a lecture on Ferdinand Bauer hosted by the Friends of the National Library at the Library.   David drew a large and appreciative audience for his excellent lecture on Bauer, the natural history artist on the Flinders' voyage.   Fascinating to have this man's life, career, and influence by numerous people including the exacting Robert Brown, presented so eloquently by David.   The audience included the Austrian Ambassador, because the Embassy has been financing David to present the lecture on Ferdinand Bauer at each of the commemorations around Australia.   Other sponsors for the Canberra events were the Australian Systematic Botany Society, the Australian Biological Resources Study, and ourselves.   Special thanks are also due to Paul Ziesing who worked very hard on promotion.

My personal thanks to all those who participated and who helped me behind the scenes to make both occasions a success.

Best wishes to those giving presentations in the Sydney celebration  (Robert Brown 200, 8-10 May).

NOTE   ABRS have published the Robert Brown (and other) Diaries in a book entitled Nature's Investigator.   Ian Cresswell's presentation recommends it as a "ripping yarn and jolly good read".   Must be good because it has not stayed on our library shelves long enough to have developed a space for itself.   It is available from ABRS for $75.

[Helen Hewson]


4.          Information Technology and Data Management

Interesting URL:

“to visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location”.

A result of this volunteer effort, which I suspect is essentially a game for those who like a challenge, is an evolving image catalogue of the earth’s landscape, ecosystem and vegetation diversity.  Check out your favourite country/state.  There have been attempts to compile such a dossier on vegetation types in all the broad Australian bioregions, but this is another approach that I really think has ended up with more detailed, if not quite as targeted, coverage.  Imagine if we could get biologists to visit these locations, collect specimens and build species lists ….)  Anyway, if you are ever on field work and find yourself standing on a degree confluence….take pictures….

[Jim Croft]


5.          General Centre Matters

Healthy Country Flagship Program

Planning for the Healthy Country FP (previously BHAG) is progressing well, even if a little slowly.  CSIRO staff have been working through and formulating the overall goals and strategic directions of this program.  It is intended that 50-60% of CSIRO’s funding will be invested in these FPs within five years – this is a lot of our resources and we need to take the development very seriously.

The HC is to reflect the establishment and maintenance of partnerships and a holistic concept of health (people, environment and economic enterprise).   It is intended that groups of interested parties can work together to test the extent to which making money and improving the quality of the environment are compatible.  A necessary aspect of this is to understand the impacts on the lives of the people involved.

Chris Moran from Land and Water, is the Interim Manager of the Healthy Country.  Four regions of Australia have been identified for the focus of the HC – south-west WA, Great Barrier Reef coastal zone, Melbourne and the Murrumbidgee-Murray – with a national component overlay.   We have been involved more with the MM component and Mark Peoples and Judy West are representing the Division as members of a core group meeting regularly to develop conceptual models and directions.

We are trying to approach the whole HC program by developing partnerships with the relevant stakeholders of the regions prior to deciding on the science that we want to do.  In that way the research programs developed and the questions we pursue will be formulated together with our stakeholders and should address the needs of the catchments and regions concerned.  This is a little frustrating for many of us as scientists who are champing at the bit to put forward our favourite projects and the work that we think is relevant to address the issues – be patient that phase is fast approaching.

[Judy West]