Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria
Extract from Jim Croft's retirement speech for Gred Whitbread, 27 Feb 2015:
Greg came to the Gardens from CSIRO Plant Industry, where he was a technical officer in the Herbarium. He had, at the time, a unique combination of skills - he knew how to spell 'herbarium' and he could spell 'computer' and 'Unix'. That met the selection criteria.
We went head-hunting him for the Gardens soon to be established database. At the time our herbarium labels were being typed on a stand-alone word processor. We had to do better.
And so the fun began. There were no rules. So we made them up. No-one said we couldn't do anything so we just did it. There were no collections databases, so he made one. There was no network, so on weekends we crawled through ceiling cavities dragging cables. There were no data standards, so we made them up. There was no internet, so we built a website. And people all over the world copied us.
We built a team around collections, botanical information, and technology. And what a team it was. If you plotted them on the Myers Briggs personality spectrum, you could not have got them further apart if you tried. And we argued. We shouted at each other. We swore at each other. We threw things at each other during meetings. We managed to evacuate the cafe with one of our arguments. It was truly a crucible of creativity.
Greg's legacy to the Gardens, and to ABRS, and to the national and international biodiversity communities has been enormous.
Here is a short and partial list of what he has driven or contributed to in a big way:
- in his previous life, collection of a number of type specimens;
- design and building of the herbarium database;
- integration of ANBG's Living Collections database;
- integration of ANBG and CSIRO herbarium databases;
- integration of Photo database;
- APNI, APC;
- the International Plant Names Index;
- Flora of Australia Online;
- HISPID data standards;
- international data standards;
- international data management applications;
- the direction of TDWG;
- vision of free, open shared data;
- the world's first live database to internet gateway;
- the world's first botanical and second biodiversity web server;
- the shared vision for Australia's Virtual Herbarium,
which was the inspiration for GBIF and the ALA;
- the National Species List.
The important aspect of all this was that Greg saw no distinction between a herbarium and gardens as a collection of plants and the herbarium and gardens as an information resource. As a result we regarded the database not as something separate, but as in integral part of the collections.
This, and the vision of free open shared data, is Greg's real legacy.
by Jim Croft 27/2/2015
Source: Extracted from:
Australasian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter 162-163 (March-June 2015) p.42-43
Portrait Photo: 1010, M.Fagg, now in ANBG Photo Collection.
Data from 156 specimens