Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research
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: Val.Oliver@csiro.au
Applications are now being called for ABRS Participatory Program Research Grants to be funded in the year 2005/2006. The application forms, guidelines and other instructions are available from the ABRS website at www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/admin/grants/. Grant applications close on 10 November 2004.
Volunteers Morning Tea
The annual Volunteers Morning Tea was held on Thursday 16th September to officially thank our Volunteers for the time and effort they have contributed to the Centre over the past year. During this time the Volunteers have processed over 14 000 specimens. In particular, this year they have tackled such mammoth tasks as mounting the Cyperaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Lauraceae backlogs in preparation for AVH data entry, mounting numerous boxes of Lyn Cravens Melaleuca collections and the remounting of deteriorating sheets within the collection. Assistance has also been provided in Loans and Exchange and the ANBG library.
6 volunteers were recognized for their long term commitment to the Volunteer program. Con Boekel presented awards to Nick Hulskamp, Susan Innes, Elizabeth Richardson, Francisco Tula-Portillo and Cathy Zdanowicz for 5 years service and to June Petru for 10 years service. Helen Hadobas also thanked Nick Hulskamp for the enormous amount of work he has undertaken in Loans and Exchange over his time as a Centre Volunteer. Judith Curnow added her thanks to June Petru who has worked in both vascular and cryptogam mounting over her ten years.
Many thanks also go to those staff members who generously provided the sumptuous spread enjoyed by volunteers and staff alike.
International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI)
My recent overseas trip was undertaken as honorary fellow with IPGRI (International Plant Genetic Resources Institute). In general on this trip, my role was a collaborator and advisor in three project areas (1) biotic stress and crop diversity, (2) genetic diversity and conservation planning, (3) seed systems and the maintenance of crop genetic diversity on farms. To make the trip as efficient as possible, the itinerary included several activities in China, Nepal, Vietnam and Rome.
I began in Kunming China by attending a workshop for the new GEF (Global Environment Facility) IPGRI international project on using local crop diversity to cope with biotic stresses. This workshop brought together the active scientists from the four countries (Morocco, Ecuador, Uganda and China) participating in the project to plan and standardize protocols. In particular we trained in participatory approaches to research farmers knowledge, beliefs and practices in relation to their use of local crop diversity and link these data with studies of disease dynamics and crop variation. Professor Zhu, National Centre for Agricultural Biodiversity, Yunnan Agricultural University organized a second workshop to follow on the conservation and use of crop genetic diversity to control pests and disease in support of sustainable agriculture. The research of his team on mixtures to reduce the impact of rice blast in traditional, prized varieties of rice has appeared in Nature and in Time magazine. Adoption of this technique by farmers in the region is amazingly rapid to well over 250,000 ha in five years.
The next stop was Hanoi, to advise on a UNDP project entitled in situ conservation of native landraces of crops and their wild relatives in Vietnam. IPGRI is the partner responsible for scientific input for this project. The objective is the designation of management zones where both the use and the conservation of agricultural biodiversity are in place. From there, I visited Nepalese Agricultural Research Institute, Kathmandu, Nepal where several colleagues are working with farmers on participatory plant breeding (PPB) and in situ conservation in rice, taro, and barley. Of immediate interest were projects using DNA (microsatellite) and isozyme markers to assess genetic structure and the impact of PPB, and to measure the effect of seed system of diversity deployment.
The final tasks were achieved in IPGRIs head office in Rome. These included reporting on the Asian components of the trip, workshops on the data structure for the overall in situ project, review of achievements and decisions on its final year of activity and future plans. Analysis of the genetic consequences of seed systems on crop diversity is a current focus for comparative projects in barley in three countries (Nepal, Morocco and Ethiopia). Seed system networks among farmers for traditional varieties display analogies with the dynamics of meta-populations in natural systems, which are of direct interest to our Centre research projects.
(The photo shows a mixed planting of high-yielding short modern cultivar with taller traditional glutinous rice. Disease in the blast-susceptible, high-value glutinous landrace is suppressed by the more resistant modern cultivar.)
A Two Days Diary: Report from the 2nd GTI Regional Workshop,
Wellington, New Zealand
Two hours waiting on the tarmac in the outbound flight, and temporary missing luggage at the end of inbound flight were not pleasant experiences to anybody. Unfortunately, those happened in my recent trip to Wellington, New Zealand. Despite this unlucky beginning, I would like to express my gratitude to ABRS for providing the grant for my travel, and to CPBR, CSIRO - Plant Industry for the permit and for much in-kind support.
I was at Wellington to attend the 2nd Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) Regional Workshop held at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 9- 10 October 2004. I have to agree with Andrew Young and Richard Groves about the beauty of Wellington City and its Museums. The aims of the workshop were to build capacity in taxonomy in the developing economies in the Asia-Oceania Region and to review the GTI Program of Work in the region and the way of engaging the commitment and participation of more countries. I have been invited to the workshop by the Organizing Committee to present a paper on my experiences (at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences) in providing plant taxonomy training in Indonesia.
Saturday 9 October 2004 the first day of the workshop, after the opening address by Dennis Gordon (NIWA), this workshop became the first international workshop I have attended where the number of laptops equalled the number of participants, or even more. The atmosphere in the room was very different to any workshop I have attended. Most of the participants were busy with their laptops while simultaneously asking questions to the speakers. I didnt really know how they could manage it. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, I presented my talk entitled "The Regional Training in Plant Taxonomy: Experience from Bogor, Indonesia". I was very happy to present my talk late in the afternoon after most of the previous presenters had mentioned the need of the training for both taxonomists and parataxonomists for both Asia and Oceania countries. Therefore my presentation emerged nicely as an example of the alternative answer.
In the same day, we have also discussed about the potential international biodiversity programs and projects for the region which have practical benefits of significance to the economy and potential funding organizations. We were debating project ideas on biodiversity in agricultural, marine and fresh water ecosystems. We have also identified two cross-cutting themes; i.e. 1) indigenous taxonomies and 2) invasive alien species. I have realized that the main themes of the project I have mentioned above have been discussed internationally and regionally since 6 12 months ago. Thus in the workshop, most of the participant have been aware of these themes before hand. At the end of this day, I have learned a lot in term of proposing, sharing, and defending ideas with the international taxonomists from many different countries as well as the importance of the network for gathering support for our proposed project ideas.
Sunday 10 October 2004 was the second and last day of the workshop, and started with the presentation of the potential projects we had discussed. It was then followed by the participants vote on projects with the most potential as our priority, drafting the project proposals, and forming the team for each prioritized project with at least one committed champion to move the proposal forward. It was a long and thorough process in a very enthusiastic atmosphere. Each country as well as the individual taxonomists were presenting and exchanged their arguments on particular projects until they came to an agreement. There were two lessons of the day that I have been learned; i.e. 1) Writing an international / regional project proposal including writing it in the application form format to the potential donors (e.g. GEF) and 2) Identifying potential donors for the international / regional biodiversity (taxonomy) projects proposed. Related to the latter lesson, I have a personal concern about the fact that the number of potential donors available for funding regional taxonomy projects has decreased based on our identification during the workshop. Furthermore, donors prefer projects with direct impact on the stakeholders or public, to the pure basic science projects such taxonomy revision and field inventory. These circumscriptions more or less will affect the future direction of many taxonomy projects.
Finally, I would like to close my "two days" diary with a summary that the 2nd GTI Regional Workshop has broadened my view on international and regional taxonomy and biodiversity issues and projects. It has also expanded my personal and institutional (on behalf of Herbarium Bogoriense and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences) networks especially with the taxonomists and institutions in Pacific.
CPBR Executive Committee
The next meeting of the Executive Committee is 24 November 2004.