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- CPBR News 14-

News from the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research and
Australian National Herbarium (CANB)

For the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers

March, 1999

1. Herbarium and Services

1.1 Student Botanical Internship Program - Report for 1999

This is an abridged version of the report for the 1999 Internship Program. Copies of the full report are available from Brendan Lepschi.

    Participants and Institutions
A total of 34 applications were received for the 1999 Program, with 20 placements offered and accepted. One applicant withdrew literally minutes before the Program began, but all other 19 Interns successfully completed the Program. Twelve universities were represented by Interns, as well as the ANBG Living Collections section and Booderee National Park and Botanic Garden (ANBG Jervis Bay Annexe). As in previous years, ANU interest remains strong (nine applications, four accepted), while University of Canberra interest was low (only one application, not accepted). National participation also remains strong, with participants from all states except the Northern Territory, Tasmania and Victoria. One overseas (USA) student also participated. Prior to the commencement of this year's Program, an effort was made to contact all relevant academics at institutions where the Program was to be advertised, so as to ensure adequate promotion. The relatively high number of applications for the 1999 Program is likely to be a result of these efforts.

    Work Output
Output achieved by Interns during 1999 is roughly equal to 1.9 years work (of an entry-level TO), based on a 200-day working year, with time worked in the first two weeks of the Program halved (due to the inherent teething problems usually experienced at this early stage). Work carried out by Interns in 1999 included mounting and incorporation of vascular and non-vascular specimens, general curatorial activities in both the vascular and non-vascular collections, processing of herbarium specimens (especially ANBG Living Collections vouchers and Orchid Group material), assistance with loans and exchange, databasing (mainly ANHSIR), determining specimen geo-codes, spirit collection maintenance, assistance to the Australian Network for Plant Conservation (ANPC), surveying a section of the Murrumbidgee River for the endangered Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong, and general lab and herbarium tasks.

No major difficulties were encountered during the running of the 1999 Program, apart from some recurrent (and frustrating) IT-related problems. The high cost of vehicle hire is a limiting factor with regard to fieldwork, with student accommodation costs continuing to be a major hurdle for most Interns.

Rough calculations indicate an approximate cost of $2800 (including "hidden costs") to run the 1999 Interns Program, roughly $400 more than for 1998 (although that year saw a much lower intake of Interns). The single biggest outlay still remains vehicle hire, accounting for about 40% of total costs.

As with 1998, there was no particular publicity angle for this year (no new species, etc). Media releases were done via EA Publicity (who did a great job), and were directed to local media, interns' hometown newspapers, and their campus papers. Response was not overwhelming, but quite gratifying given the lack of any specific 'hooks'. The presence of CSIRO CEO Malcolm McIntosh at the Graduation Ceremony ensured a modicum of media attention.

The 1999 Interns Program was highly successful, with this particular batch of Interns among the best yet. Work output was high overall, especially with regard to general curatorial activity (both vascular and non-vascular). The participation of two ANBG staff members in the Program for the fourth year running, was most valuable, both for the Herbarium and the Interns institutional work areas. All Interns were also provided with Evaluation Forms for the Program, and of those received so far, overall feedback has been very positive. These forms will be available for interested staff at a later stage.

The success of the 1999 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. We are most grateful to all concerned. Thanks are also due to all Centre staff, especially those at the Herbarium, for their tolerance during the period the Interns were 'on deck'.

[Brendan Lepschi]

2. Research Groups

3. Information Technology and Data Management

3.1 WWW Site

The URL for the Centre can be found at: http://www.anbg.gov/cpbr

Please check regularly for new items of interest re Centre staff and activities.

3.2 Plant Names Project

Funds from the US National Science Foundation have allowed the recruitment of a programmer to work in Canberra on the Plant Names Project. This position as been advertised as either a six month full time or a one year part time appointment. The programmer will be working with the APNI database and data to convert the information into formats compatible with the PNP data structure, Index Kewensis and the Harvard Gray Card Database and on mechanisms to exchange, compare and correct data.

NSF funds have also been provided to employ a PNP data editor part way through the term of the programmer. The editor will be attacking data problems that can not be handled by programming or other automated means. They will be working closely with Centre staff working on the Australian Plant Names Index.

3.3 Australian Plant Names Index (APNI)

Routine work on APNI quietened down during the Intern Program while staff were otherwise occupied, but is picking up again. Terena Lally continued updating the Legumes on funds provided by ABRS. Using funds scrounged from the ANBG IBIS budget, Laurie Adams has been contracted until the end of the financial year to tidy up higher level names and other inconsistencies with the plant name data, which included both APNI records and names from the ANHSIR database.


The combined database has been rebuilt to accept the data from the old databases. Loading scripts are being rewritten to improve reloading, setting flags and so on to achieve maximum HISPID. Existing data is being parsed to strip out as much duplication as possible. The legacy CBG and CANB data will be loaded next week and the process of inspection and checking will start.

Using the Oracle data discovery tools and exporting data to Map Info, Pennie Hohnen has mastered map output from the combined database.

3.5 Networks and Hardware

The EA/ANBG outsourcing exercise grinds along with demonstrations of the network configuration, etc. Potential bidders are preparing submissions to take over the running of the ANBG desktop computing.

A new(ish) high(ish) resolution laser printer has been identified for the third floor of the Centre, following the purchase of new hardware in the ANBG. This will enable specimen label printing on all floors of the Centre.

The proposal to upgrade all the ANBG desktop computers in the Centre to Windows NT with new email and updated office automation software has not died, but no-one is saying when it will happen. Guesstimates are of the order of 6-8 weeks, but do not hold your breath.

With the move of the rest of Environment Australia to new buildings, EA network connections and email despatch and delivery has been a bit flaky, to say the least. If you are conducting important business with EA by email, follow up any messages you think you send to make sure they get to where you think they are going.

3.6 WWW

The Centre Executive has been considering the structure and content of the Centre web site in some detail. Staff from each program will be asked to look at the information that is on the web and ensure that it is up to date and the coverage and detail is appropriate. A protocol is being developed to get new or replacement material onto the server.

The web address is still http://www.anbg.gov.au/cpbr/ but a proposal has been submitted to register the centre with its own domain name.

[Jim Croft]

4. Education and Communication

4.1 Communications Committee

After a long gestation period the Communications Committee for the CPBR is finally up and running with meetings held in February and March. The committee comprises Curt Brubaker, Christine Cansfield-Smith, Pam Diver, Murray Fagg, Paula Fitzgerald, and Jo Palmer, with Suzie taking minutes.

Matters discussed include a general promotional leaflet for the Centre, the launch of the Rainforest Key, templates for powerpoint and OHP presentations, and new information flyers with a format that distinguishes the CPBR from other CSIRO PI information sheets.

We are aiming to develop a Communication Strategy for the Centre with realistic goals for the next twelve months. This will be circulated to all staff when finalised.

[Murray Fagg]

5. General Centre Matters

5.1 Strategic Planning Progress

The Strategic Plan is now heading into the consultation stage. Initial meetings with the Centre's Executive Committee have been aimed at highlighting future directions for the Centre and at addressing existing issues. These ongoing meetings have proven very beneficial and should result in some concrete future objectives for the Centre to aim towards.

Staff consultation is expected to commence after Easter. At this stage, Program Leaders will be responsible for putting together lists of staff who will participate in the meeting process. These meetings will be in the form of small group discussions comprised of specific program areas, and will discuss program strategic directions, as well as any existing or perceived issues which face the programs or the Centre. More information on these sessions will be available shortly.

As always, if anyone has any questions, thoughts or comments, please don't hesitate to contact me by phone: 6246 5263 or email: Lucy.Blackburn@deh.gov.au.

[Lucy Blackburn]

5.2 10 Year Celebration

Joan Graham and Pennie Hohnen invited Centre Staff to join them for a sausage sizzle to celebrate their first 10 years at the Herbarium.

A great time was had by all.

6. Other News

6.1 Tim Richmond Retires

After many years of service, Tim Richmond has decided to retire on April 6 from his position as Assistant Secretary, Parks Australia South.

Tim has been in the Environment portfolio for many years, having joined the then ANPWS in 1978 and subsequently working in ANCA and EA. During that time Tim has played a significant role in establishing the Commonwealth's policies, particularly in relation to the national park and wildlife issues.

During the past four years while Tim has been Director of the ANBG and in his Parks Australia South portfolio, we have had a cooperative working relationship working towards the future of the Centre.

I am sure you will want to join me in wishing Tim well in his retirement.

We have been informed that John Hicks will act as Assistant Secretary, Parks Australia South from April 6, and until the current round of SES recruitment is completed.

[Judy West]

6.2 Chief Science Adviser's Seminar

As part of a strategy to raise the profile of the Centre in Environment Australia, I was invited to present a seminar about CPBR in the EA Chief Science Adviser's Seminar Series. This took place March 16. I made a powerpoint presentation (which all ran without a hitch) covering most aspects of the Centre's activities and functions. To exemplify our delivery of research results and linkage between research and on the ground applications I elaborated on some specific projects - our interactive keys (EUCLID, Rain forest), fire & biodiversity, role of conservation genetics in small population management, bitou bush as an example of weed control and revegetation management strategy.

[Judy West]

6.4 Movement at ANBG

The transfer of some Environment Australia staff to the Old Admin Building has enabled the Photograph Collection to move to a new location.

While still in the Ellis Rowan building the collection has been moved to the northern end of this building (closer to CSIRO!). The room is bigger and, being air conditioned, provides far more suitable housing for the collection.

It is hoped that eventually this move will allow greater public access to the Photograph Collection. In the meantime anyone who would care to come and visit will be made most welcome.

[Jan Wilson]

6.5 Flora of Australia

Flora of Australia vol. 1 Introduction (2nd edn) was published on 2nd March 1999, and is available from CSIRO Publishing or the ANBG Shop. Only a hard cover version is available, RRP $79.95.

[Tony Orchard]

7. Diary of Events/Activities

9 Apr
Biodiversity SAC meeting
Judy West and Jeremy Burdon
Sector meeting with Advisory Committee planning for presentation to CSIRO Executive.

19-23 Apr
CHAH Technician's Workshop
Helen Hewson and Heinar Streimann
Technical workshop on Cryptogams to be run at the Centre on behalf of CHAH.

21 Apr-1 Jun
16th World Orchid Conference Vancouver
Mark Clements
Invited speaker at 16th World Orchid Conference Vancouver.

12 Jun - 12 Jul
Overseas Visit to UK and USA
Tony Willis
Tony will visit the Univ. of Bristol, UK, to finalise the obligations of a research grant from the British Council and then attend the X International Symposium on Biological Control of Weeds in Bozeman, Montana, USA.

3-12 Jul
Overseas Visit to Nepal
Tony Brown
Attend participants meeting for IPGRI project on Biodiversity Conservation.

CPBR News is compiled by Suzie Dietrich (suzie.dietrich@pi.csiro.au),
Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research

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Placed here 15 November, 1999 by Andrew Lyne
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