An Australian Government Initiative
Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research  
CPBR logo

Home > CANBR > CPBR News


Issue 51- February 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

Student Botanical Internship Program 2003 Overview

Participants and Institutions

2003 represents the tenth year that the Student Botanical Intern Program has been run. A total of 20 applications were received for the Program, with 19 placements offered and 18 accepted. All 18 Interns successfully completed the Program in 2003. The number of applications received this year was comparable to numbers in recent years.

Recruitment Trends

Eleven Australian universities were represented along with graduates from a number of overseas institutions. There were three Monash University students and one from Melbourne Uni taking part in the Internship this year, reflecting the strength in botanical training currently found in Melbourne. The trend of low numbers from Sydney continues, with only one student taking part in the program. Students from Germany, Hong Kong and Canada also helped to provide an international flavor to the Program.

Many of our participants had completed, or were in the process of completing, degrees in horticulture. Other students were working towards degrees in environmental science, botany or geography. Overall it was a good mix of backgrounds and interests that no doubt added to the Intern’s learning experience.

Work Output

Output achieved by Interns during 2003 is roughly equal to 2 year’s work (of an entry-level TO), based on a 200-day working year. However, when you deduct the training input of CPBR and ANBG staff, it works out to be 1.7 years’ work. This relates to the work output achieved in previous years (the average over 1999-2002 being 1.7 years).

The major push to process herbarium specimens identified as priority groups for the AVH project continued this year. This work included mounting and incorporation of vascular and non-vascular specimens, identification of specimens, assistance with loans and exchange, databasing, determining specimen geocodes, spirit collection maintenance and general lab and herbarium tasks. A major component of the curation in 2003 centred around the reshuffling of the existing Myrtaceae collection and the incorporation of 150 boxes of new additions. The unmounting of half of the donated Deniliquin Rangeland Herbarium for appropriate archival remounting was a major focus of the Intern curatorial labour. Processing of the QRS herbarium’s duplicate backlog was another large task that was started with the help of this years Interns.

The January Canberra bushfires disrupted the planned field program on one hand but on the other opened up new opportunities. The Brindabella eucalypt trip had to be postponed and then a new route selected as the traditional route was eventually burnt out. The four-day residential field trip to Jervis Bay went ahead and in many ways was a good release for staff and Interns who had just faced Canberra’s worst ever fires. A mock ecological survey and a new GPS specimen tracking exercise were the main features of Intern training at Jervis Bay. Once the fires had stopped it opened up the opportunity for forest fire analysis under the direction of Malcolm Gill. This day trip was an exercise in forensic data recording that the Interns found of particular interest.

Assistance was provided to various research groups such as cryptogams, orchids, Polygalaceae, data from the fire field trip and for a bush regeneration trial. Coding for the developing "pea key" interactive product was also continued with the 2003 program.


The 2003 Program attracted perhaps the most media attention since Interns assisted with the Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong discovery in 1997. The pine forest fire research was a story that captured the media’s attention with five Interns having the opportunity to be interviewed on WIN News (TV), ABC local radio and the Canberra Times. There is also mention of Intern involvement in the post fire research in an upcoming article in the CSIRO’s co:research newsletter. The Intern Program and its host institutions gained valuable recognition with the media exposure that came out of this fire research.


Overall operational costs come out at $5,450 to run the 2003 Interns Program, slightly less expensive than 2002 (at $5,771). The reduced cost relates to two of the three field trips being closer to Canberra than they were in previous years. As with 2002, most of this cost was generated by the residential fieldtrip, and associated vehicle hire and fuel costs.


Overall, the 2003 Interns Program was very successful. Work output was high, and covered a similar range of tasks to previous years along with a focus on processing priority herbarium material for the AVH project.

All Interns were also provided with Evaluation Forms for the Program, and despite a few comments about the curatorial work being a little tedious, the overall feedback has been very positive.

Concerns and Issues

No major difficulties were encountered during the running of the 2003 Program, though a few issues need to be thought about for next year:

IT support was handled once again by Plant Industry IT. While initial set up of six PCs was well done, ongoing support of these computers when problems arose was not as good as we would have wished. Email was once again set up on the EA network and linked to Intern personal web accessible accounts in order for them to be readable on the CSIRO network. This email access seemed to work better in 2003 than it did last year, though it is still not an ideal configuration.

A few institutions (eg. Uni of Canberra, Charles Sturt Uni) resumed teaching one week earlier than the Internship finished, resulting in one student having to finish the program early and another missing several sessions.

The perennial problem of accommodation for interstate participants remains a major issue. A large number of students stayed in ANU colleges for ease of access to the Herbarium. Unfortunately none of the colleges were offering accommodation for the full duration of the program. Interns in this situation had to find accommodation and move for the final two weeks of the program. The time and cost involved in finding a place to stay continues to be one of the bigger problems for Interns. Attempts will be made this year to find outside funding to help subsidise accommodation, including a bid for the Allen Strom Eureka Prize.


The success of the 2003 Program is in no small part due to the considerable efforts of a number of Centre staff, outside academics and others who freely gave their time to present lectures and training sessions, as well as providing supervision for Intern work teams. I am most grateful to all concerned. Thanks are also due to all Centre staff, especially those at the Herbarium, for their tolerance, enthusiasm and support during the course of the Program.

[Anthony Whalen]


2. Research Groups

Myrtle Moments

The Syzygium team has increased in size for a six week period. Dra Siti Sunarti, from Herbarium Bogoriense, LIPI, Indonesia has received a CSIRO-LIPI award to visit Canberra. The purpose of Narti's visit is to become familiar with the DELTA system of recording and manipulating data and to do some taxonomic work with Lyn Craven. Her first task is to translate the at present English-only list of characters and character states into Indonesian. Then we will have the option of obtaining descriptions of the species either in English or Indonesian. Later Narti will gain experience in collecting data in the system so that upon her return to Bogor she will be able to apply the system to Syzygium species from Java and the Lesser Sundas. This data will be contributed to a collaborative project on Syzygium in the Malesian area. Narti is located in the Student room on Level 2, Building 502 or can be contacted through Ed Biffin or Lyn Craven.

[Lyn Craven]


Dr David Punter

Dr Punter from the Department of Botany, University of Manitoba, gave a special presentation on ‘Studies of dwarf mistletoes (Viscaceae) in Manitoba, Canada’ at the Australian National Herbarium on Tuesday 4 March. Dr Punter is a plant pathologist specialising in ecological and epidemiological aspects of disease relationships; diseases of wild rice, dwarf mistletoes of conifers, and soil-borne pathogens.

[Val Oliver]


3. Information Technology and Data Management

History of Australian National Herbarium

Helen Hewson has prepared a short history of the Australian National Herbarium for publication in the Academy’s Historical Records of Australian Science, and we have taken the opportunity to use this as the basis for a web site on the history of the Herbarium.

Helen's account was limited by a word-count restriction, but the web version does not have to be so restricted. If you have material that you want to contribute please feel free to contact Helen or myself.

One thing I would like is some early photos of the Herbarium if people have them, the pre-fab building down the hill and especially a photo illustrating the diversion of Barry Drive around the old herbarium when Nancy Burbidge refused to move.

[Murray Fagg]


Australian Tropical Rain Forest Plants: Trees Shrubs and Vines

Hyland, Whiffin, Christophel, Gray and Elick

Australian Tropical Rain Forest Plants: Trees, Shrubs and Vines is an interactive identification and information system for 2154 species of trees, shrubs and vines of northern Australia's rain forests. Based on the second edition, it includes the species in northern Australia, from Broome in Western Australia to Townsville in Queensland.

This powerful identification tool provides an easy to use and simple means of naming a rain forest plant (or specimen) using whatever information is available. Through responding to a series of choices or questions about the plant at hand a process of elimination enables the user to achieve identification. A total of 154 characters, covering the morphology — habit, bark, leaves, flowers, fruits, buds and seedlings — and some geographic and ecological information ensure reliability of the key is high. Interpretation of the character information is assisted with help notes and images featuring colour or line drawings.

A comprehensive information system for each species includes common name, the formal scientific name together with nomenclatural synonyms, geographic and ecological information, distinguishing features and natural history notes. The descriptions are combined with high quality coloured images for most species, leaf X-ray images and a map showing natural distribution.


This system will be invaluable for a wide range of researchers, palaeobotanists, foresters, educators, students, land managers, conservationists, tourists and naturalists interested in the biological diversity of the rain forest flora.

Please contact Kirsten Cowley on 6246 5024 email for purchasing details.


4. General Centre Matters

Bushfire Appeal

Jim Croft, on behalf of friends and colleagues, presented Andrew Slee and Jen Johnston with donations of $3720.00 resulting from the bushfire appeal. The presentation took place at the staff meeting on Wednesday 5 March. Many thanks for the fantastic response.

[Val Oliver]


Next Program U/Centre meeting

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

[Val Oliver]