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Issue 50- January 2003

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



Tupac Otero from Puerto Rico has been appointed to the position of postdoctoral fellow funded by the Gatsby Foundation (UK) and commences in the Centre on 31 March 2003.  The project is to investigate symbiotic relationships in the Australian ground orchids.

Teguh Triono from Indonesia commences his PhD at the ANU on 1 March 2003 and with the Herbarium on 21 February 2003.  The PhD project is titled “Phylogenetic and Biogeographic Study of Genus Pouteria (Sapotaceae) in Malesia: using morphology and molecular data”.

Xiufu Zhang has been appointed as Technical Assistant to undertake the data and image handling and much of the character coding the project ‘Interactive key to Australian orchid genera’ for two years funded by ABRS.  Commencement date is to be confirmed.

[Jim Croft]


Just when you thought you knew where everyone was...

Today's version of the musical rooms story:

Judy moved to DEST; Jim might move into Judy's room if a couple of cubic metres of paper can be moved out (in the mean time feel free to use it for meetings); Sophie has moved into Trudy's place; Glenda has moved to Sophie's place to share the room with Sophie who is in Trudy's place; Kirsten has moved to Glenda's space to share with Jo; Liz  has fled to the sublime tranquility, safety and serenity of Building 1; Jeremy is going to move to Kirsten and Liz's room with Tony and will have to lose a couple of cubic metres of paper in the process; Brendan will move to Jeremy's room; Bronwyn and Glenda (again!) will move to Brendan’s room; Pete will move to Rogier's room; Sophie will move to Pete's room; two new postdocs will move into Sophie's room; Karina will move to the level3 lab; Marion will move to Karina's place; new orchid TO Xiufu Zhang will move to Marion's place; Scott will be moving to the ANU to write up; Teguh Triono will be moving into Scott's place with Ed Cross;  Bernard will be moving down to building one to write up, Ed Biffin will move into the students’ room, etc., etc...

now see if you can find anyone...  and when it is all over, we start again...  :)

[Jim Croft]


Map Room Overhaul

Over the last nine months the Map Room has received a significant overhaul. No longer are there masses of maps rolled up and stashed in corners, or endless drawers of seemingly unordered maps. A lot of these previously inaccessible maps are now hanging in the vertical map cabinets, or are folded and kept in the field copy collection, within the shelving of magazine boxes. Our geological maps and the majority of the topographical maps of Papua New Guinea, are now hanging in vertical map cabinets.

The remaining map drawers are well labelled and the contents of each drawer should have associated maps gathered in sets. There are a couple of drawers for maps covering Australia in its entirety, a drawer for miscellaneous theme and scale maps of each state and territory, and several drawers for overseas countries. A large number of old NSW county maps have been given their own map drawer. There is a whole drawer of map templates, presumably used for plotting species distributions by hand.

There is a current map catalogue/key for the national mapping agency (AUSLIG), and all the state and territory mapping agencies. These are kept in a magazine box on top of the vertical map cabinets. The exceptions being WA and NT, which don’t print a catalogue any more, instead relying on their websites to provide the information. I have laminated a number of maps and map keys and hung them on the vertical map cabinets. For example, there is a detailed colour map of Papua New Guinea, West Papua (Irian Jaya) and Solomon Islands hanging on the Papua New Guinea vertical map cabinet.

Using intern labour in February, I plan to fold and incorporate into our field map collection, a recent donation of WA 1:100 000 maps. The maps were the surplus of an Environment Australia division, and came via the ANBG library. There are also a number of maps in the field copy collection that are poorly folded, making the title difficult to read. Interns will rectify this also. We will hopefully also get onto to electronically cataloguing the standard-scale maps in the collection.

Please see me if you have any queries about the map room.

 [Lee Halasz]


GPS units for field work, etc.

The Centre has recently acquired two new Garmin Etrex Summit GPS units, bringing the total available for field work and other spatially critical projects to four.   These have been engraved and numbered and are kept in a locked cupboard in the receptionist area of the Centre with the satellite phone and a number of field items.  Keys to this cupboard are available from Val Oliver, Anthony Whalen and Peter Moore.  Please sign in and out the unit you borrow in the booking register provided.

These GPS units run on AA penlight batteries, so ensure you have a supply of these before going into the field.  The units are equipped with an inbuilt electronic compass and an aneroid barometer and can provide reasonable directional and altitude readings.  Data cables are available to allow uploading and downloading of spatial data between GPS and computer via the serial port; there are a number of programs to assist with this (Waypoint plus, Oziexplorer, GPS Trackmaker, etc) and they have been loaded onto the Dell computer in the Map Room.

 [Jim Croft]


Relocation of demonstration, mapping and scanning computer during the

Intern Program

The general access Dell computer with the large screen and attached scanner that is available for online and CDROM demonstrations, image scanning, CDROM writing, and GIS applications have been moved out of the Map Room for January and February, the duration of the Summer Intern Program.

Its temporary accommodation is in the small 'Network Room' on Level 3.   All programs and peripheral should work as before - if you have any problems, talk to Siobhan Duffy who has 'Administrator' rights to this computer.   It has been loaded with current versions of all interactive keys.  It will be moving back into the Map Room in early March.

 [Jim Croft]


Welcome back Volunteers! 

We would all like to welcome back our very valuable Volunteers who will commence again on 22 January. We wish them everything good for 2003 - good specimens in particular.

I understand the combined Volunteer/Staff Christmas lunch went well.  I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be there but spent the previous night in hospital.  (Nothing too worrying – but a handy warning).  Thanks so much for your kind thoughts.

At the moment the usual pleasant bunch of Interns is experiencing the delights of work in the Herbarium.  They are continuing the good Volunteer tradition and mounting lots of specimens without complaint.

For those of you who don’t already know I will be on leave from 22 January until the end of April and currently plan to retire around the end of May.

I’m very pleased to report that it seems my position will be filled.

[Faye Davies]


Student Botanical Internship Program

18 students and graduates make up the interns for 2003, the 11th consecutive year this Program has been run. We have people from Universities and Colleges from across the Country and several people from overseas, including Canada. This year's group has a distinct horticultural flavour about it for many of the students involved. The close relationship and proximity of the CPBR and the ANBG should hopefully prove a valuable learning environment for the interns, providing a taste of many different areas of botanical and horticultural research.

This Program is unique to the Australian National Herbarium, amongst Australian herbaria, and provides valuable work experience for people interested in future employment in the biological sciences. It also provides the CPBR with a useful team for curation and other projects. The continued processing of priority plant families for the Australia’s Virtual Herbarium project will make up a large part of this year's intern work. The processing of 400 pigeonholes worth of duplicate specimens, transferred from Atherton Herbarium, will also require considerable intern help. Numerous other smaller tasks in and around the Centre will be processed by the interns over the next two months. If you have a project that needs assistance, it’s not too late, let me know and we will see what we can organise.

The interns and staff supervisors are off to Jervis Bay between 21-24 January, staying at the University of Canberra's Jervis Bay field station. Interns will learn about the local environment, park management issues and take part in a small ecological survey to help develop plant identification skills.

For more information on any aspect of the Intern Program, which runs until the 28 February, please don't hesitate to contact me.

[Anthony Whalen]


2003 Interns Jervis Bay Fieldtrip – Hall of Shame

Another internship, another catalogue of catastrophe, courtesy of the professional, highly trained staff and dedicated Interns of this august institution….

Dave Mallinson, for entering the Hall of Shame in December 2002, before the Intern Program even started, by refusing to test the readiness of Pacific Ocean for the Program, on the grounds that it was wet and cold.

Bronwyn Collins, for not telling the 14 female Interns about the second ladies bathroom at the fieldstation, thus ensuring she had it all to herself.

(Overly) enthusiastic birdo Lee Halasz, for taking his bird fieldguide everywhere with him, including swimming at the beach.

Interns Laura Maurice and Mark Williams for getting completely wasted and barging into rooms late at night under the guise of “Sooty Mould Inspections.”

Dave Mallinson, for dragging the tone of the “I Never…” drinking game into the gutter early on with his total lack of decorum.  Too much information, Dave!

Brendan Lepschi for drinking his own beer, then some of Anthonys, and then starting on the Interns beer supplies because “it kind of looked like his.”

Chris Cargill and Nicole Vella for abandoning Murray Fagg at Barren Grounds carpark while they scampered off into the bush to search for inconsequential, moisture-loving hepatics in the middle of summer at the height of the worst drought in living memory.

Intern Molly Hicks for insisting on bringing a gargantuan surfboard along for the ride, but never actually using it.  Also Intern Laura Maurice for bringing, of all things, an acoustic guitar, which also never got used (except perhaps in the course of Sooty Mould Inspections).

Dave Mallinson, for insisting on calling the Jervis Bay fieldstation caretaker “Roy”, despite being told several times that his name was in fact Keith.

A ranger (who shall remain nameless) for cracking the same distinctly un-funny joke (“Which one of you is Monica?”) three times to the assembled Interns, despite no-one laughing the first time.

Jim Croft and Judy West for removing the spare tyre on the roof of the CSIRO Landcruiser because it “looked untidy”, and thus delaying the fieldtrip by half an hour while Brendan and Anthony re-attached it.

Lee Halasz, for stashing 45 museli bars which were intended for Interns, at the herbarium, thus forcing the Interns to eat fruit for two days.

Brendan Lepschi and Dave Mallinson, for managing to find a representative of every plant family required for the identification session, except Rutaceae, proving that neither Dave nor Brendan would know a Rut if they fell over one.

Jim Croft for engaging in his usual “Will I/Won’t I/Yes/No/I’ll come/I won’t come” routine, and then actually NOT coming along, forcing us to write the Hall of Shame.

Katherine Nelson and Leilani Weier for not having message bank on their mobile phones, and for insisting on leaving them unattended and endlessly ringing.  Also Brendan Lepschi for giving out his mobile phone number as the ‘emergency contact’, and then turning off his phone on the first day, thus preventing Bronwyn and Lee from making contact during the Canberra bushfire emergency.

Intern Petra Wilhelm for placing a HUGE backpack into the last remaining passenger space in the Ford station wagon thus forcing us to strap an Intern to the roof rack.

Bronwyn Collins, for needing at least 10 hours sleep after an exhausting first day (which began at lunchtime!)

Dave Mallinson, for appearing at breakfast one morning with a mysterious facial scar, and for only offering vague explanations as to how he got it.  Speculation among Interns and staff was rife, with the most likely explanation being the result of Dave falling off the fieldstation roof while wrestling possums at night.

Intern Ali Heydon for insisting on bringing three generations of her family along on the fieldtrip.

Bronwyn Collins for destroying the exhuast system on the Ford station wagon by attempting to break the sound barrier on the way to Kangaroo Valley.

Dave Mallinson, for singing songs as disparate as Menster Phip and Phipsters “Daddy Wants A Cold Beer” and The Royal Guardsmen “Snoopy vs The Red Baron” to exactly the same tune (believed to be Johnny Cash’s “Five Feet High and Rising”).

Brendan Lepschi for snubbing the world-renowned Moss Vale Bakery and instead purchasing an Italian sausage & caramelised onion baguette from a new Sydney-weekender yuppie-deli.

And the winner for 2003, is, as always, Anthony Whalen, for ensuring that he had keys (and spare keys) for not only all fieldtrip vehicles, but also for the ANBG Landcruiser, which was to have been used by staff in Canberra during the fieldtrip.

Katherine:  “Look at the state of my nails!”   Kate: “Yeah, whatever…”

Lyndsey:  “Must…stay…awake.  Must…key….grass………specimenzzzzzzzzzz”

Aging AFL has-been pays surprise visit to the kids!   “…and then Slapper Jackson come ‘round the back here…”

And finally…mystery prize for the best caption!

[Brendan Lepschi, Dave Mallinson & Anthony Whalen]

2.       Research Groups

Summer Student Symposium

The Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research will host the annual Summer Student Symposium on Wednesday 5th of February at 12:30 in the Herbarium tea room. There will be four 15 minute presentations by the students:

"The Hornwort Genus Megaceros: The Australian Connection"

by Nicole Vella

"Invasion Ecology: Investigating the Effects of Naturally Occurring Clover Viruses on Trifolium repens"

by Rosemary Golding

"Are Australian Native Cottons Harbouring Pathogens of Cultivated Cotton?"

by Amy Davidson

"Taxonomy of the Red Ironbarks: How Many Species are There?

by Pierre-Ulric Achour

In past years, talks by the summer students have been of high quality and broad interest.  This year promises to provide more good science presented with enthusiasm.  Don't miss it!

[Linda Broadhurst]


3.                 Education and Communication

Secondment of Centre Director

The Director, Judy West has accepted a secondment to the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training to lead the Task Force established by the PM to map Australia's Science and Innovation System.

The project is to establish where Australia stands in science and innovation, and to take stock of Australian science, technology and innovation by developing an overview in terms of resources, players, linkages and performance. The study will cover key aspects of the science and innovation system including:  

Judy’s secondment is for a period of about 10 months from January 20 to December 5, 2003.  Judy will return to CSIRO just prior to Jim Peacock’s retirement as Chief December 13.

Jim Croft is Acting Director for the duration of Judy’s secondment.

[Judy West]


Changes in the ANBG Photograph Collection

Jan Wilson has taken a leaf out of Faye’s book and is now only working three days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. To maintain the level of service we hope you are used to Laura Vallee is working Thursdays and Fridays.

Laura is very efficient and helpful but please be gentle with her until she finds her way around, she does not have 20 years of experience and knowledge to fall back on. Andrew Lyne is supervising Laura so if you cannot get hold of her Andrew may be able to assist.

[Jan Wilson]


Web Use Growth

Preparing the various CSIRO Program Reports forces one to reflect on progress.  Last year at this time I wrote the UC2 Report, and have just analysed the web stats for this year in the same way. For the CPBR/ANBG site as a whole, about 19,000 html pages are accessed each day (up from about 11,000 this time last year) and over the period of a week we have visits from almost every country. At the present time the CPBR site is recording about 6,500 pages accessed per week (4,300 last year) a 51% increase; and the technical databases answer about 6,000 enquiries per week (2,800 last year) a 114% increase.

 [Murray Fagg]


4.       Information Technology and Data Management

Australia’s Virtual Herbarium

The AVH team is now complete with the commencement of the last two dataentry staff, James Hill and Osvaldo Gonzalez, who are both working on the ANBG site.  The AVH team consists of 14 dataentry staff, 2 identifiers, and various other support staff.  Most dataentry staff are working part time in morning or afternoon shifts.  Work on the CSIRO site has included Hakea and Poaceae, and is now focused on the chenopods, while work on the ANBG site has focused on the Gymnosperms and the Ferns.

Currently the identifiers who check each family to ensure the specimens have the correct names before dataentry, Terena and Laurie, are located on the CSIRO site, and Dave has already completed most of the Gymnosperms on the ANBG.  Terena has been working primarily on the grasses, Laurie has been working on Acacia, and Dave has also completed Chenopodiaceae.

Lee is contributing to the AVH effort by checking and correcting distribution details for each species once the initial dataentry has been completed, checking for outliers, as well as for unusual dots like those which fall in the ocean!  Jo continues to take care of the logistical side of things (what do we do next Jo?), as well as clearing up problems which crop up along the way.  Bronwyn is involved in setting up and implementing quality control aspects of the dataentry, while Julie is taking care of general problem solving and support. Kirsten gives the team APNI support, ensuring that plant names are available in the Plant Name Table for selection during dataentry.

On Thursday the 30th of Jan all of the AVH dataentry staff and some of the support staff were involved in a half day, team building workshop.  The workshop acted as an icebreaker and a “get to know you” for the dataentry staff who, are working in quite close conditions (4 workstations per room), and are required to “hot seat” those workstations due to space constraints.  Initial feedback from this session indicates that most staff found the exercises useful and interesting.

AVH Achievements

A total of 46,132 specimens have been processed (either as existing database records that have been verified or new specimen records that have been added to the database) over the last 13 months which is a fantastic effort by all concerned.   Progress to date:

The chart below illustrates our progress and highlights the percentage of records for each group/family/genus that have been additions versus verification of existing records.

For a more detailed view of how each family or group is going check the charts on the display board at the east end of the Level 2 compactus area. These charts are updated every few months.  The next priority groups off the rank in the coming few months will be Acacia (Mimosaceae), and the first cryptogam groups Sphagnaceae and Cladoniaceae.

[Julie Matarczyk and Jo Palmer]


SPRAT and ecological communities project (Rosemary Purdie)

Under the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, plant communities as well as plant species can be listed as endangered or vulnerable. Environment Australia has developed a database called SPRAT (Species Profile and Threats) in which Centre staff have been summarising relevant scientific information about plant species listed under the EPBC Act. I’m now extending the database to the 15 listed ecological communities, starting with the Bluegrass (Dichanthium spp), Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) and Semi-evergreen Vine Thicket communities.

The project involves preparing descriptions of all the regional ecosystems (defined in terms of vegetation, land form and soils) that make up the listed community—19 in the case of Brigalow, 11 for Semi-evergreen Vine Thickets and four for Bluegrass—and other information relevant to their protection. This includes the presence of threatened plant or animal species, information about the past and present distribution and current extent of the communities, conservation areas (if any) in which they are protected, current threats, the known effects of disturbance such as fire, grazing, weed invasion etc, and documented management needs (usually scant in relation to conservation).

The Bluegrass, Brigalow and Semi-evergreen Vine Thicket communities are located predominantly in Queensland. All three types have been listed under the EPBC Act because their original extent has been significantly reduced. For example the listed Brigalow communities originally covered just under 7 million ha of land; all but 713,000 ha have been cleared and these remaining areas are highly fragmented. Some types of Bluegrass, Brigalow and Semi-evergreen Vine Thicket communities are not threatened and hence not subject to the requirements of the EPBC Act. This makes it quite confusing for a person on the land to know whether the vegetation on their property is ‘in or out’, so the final bit of information I’m including in the SPRAT database is a summary of how to distinguish the communities that are ‘out’.

I’m close to completing the first three ecological communities and will then start work on three more local ones—the Grassy White Box (Eucalyptus albens) Woodlands, the Temperate Grasslands of the NSW Southern Tablelands and the ACT, and the Buloke (Allocasuarina luehmannii) Woodlands of the Riverina and Murray-Darling Depression Bioregions. If you’re interested in any of these communities and/or have information that you think may be relevant to them, let me know; I’m usually in the Centre Wednesday to Friday each week.

[Rosemary Purdie]


5.       General Centre Matters

Bushfire Appeal

The Canberra fires have touched, horrified and frightened a lot of us who work on Black Mountain.  Centre staff Andrew Slee and Jen Johnston appear to be the only people in PI and the ANBG who have lost their entire home and possessions in the conflagration.

Our sympathy and hearts go out to them at a time of disruption and loss that most of us can only imagine.

Friends and colleagues in the Centre have started an appeal to help them through this personal disaster and donations may be left with Val Oliver at the Herbarium on the CSIRO site or Mario Catanzariti on the ANBG site.  The appeal generated a fantastic response and many thanks for the donations received so far. 

Please let your colleagues know of this opportunity to assist Andrew and Jen with the task of putting their lives back together.

[Jim Croft/Val Oliver]


Next Program U/Centre meeting

The next Program U/Centre formal meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 12 February in the ANH Tearoom at 10.15 am. 

[Val Oliver]