Issue 39: September 2001



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. CSIRO 75th Anniversary

The Program U contribution to CSIRO’s 75th Anniversary celebrations includes displays and activities in the Australian National Herbarium and in the marquees to be set up in front of the Division of Plant Industry on Clunies Ross Street.

The Australian National Herbarium will be open for display on 19, 20 and 21 October and will include the following activities:

As part of the marquee display at Plant Industry:


[Val Oliver]


2. Research Groups

VI Australasian Bryological Workshop.

Blue Mountains, NSW. 20th Sept-26th Sept.

Judith Curnow, Heino Lepp, Scott Gilmore and myself attended the 6th biennial Australasian Bryological Workshop in the beautiful Blue Mountains just near Richmond, NSW. The participants were very comfortably accommodated at the Berringa Camp facilities in Grose Vale. The workshop itself was very ably organised and hosted by Dr Elizabeth Brown from Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney and Mrs Alison Downing from Macquarie University as well as a number of very able helpers. It was attended by 32 participants, travelling from as far north as Armidale, NSW as far south as Hobart, Tas and as far east as New Zealand and as far west as Germany.

Field excursions were a daily event and took in such venues as Coachwood Glen, Megalong Valley, Mt.Wilson, Bilpin Gorge, the Jenolan Caves and Mt. Tomah Botanical Gardens. But our days did not end with the return from our field trips! Following dinner each night we were treated to 4-5 informal presentations covering a wide range of topics, from bryophyte conservation in New Zealand to bryophyte ecology to taxonomy to fungi growing on mosses, to botanical illustration. Judith, Scott and myself all gave presentations, which were well received. The standard of the talks was excellent and, of course, very interesting. But the night didn’t end there! Following the talks, it was off to the laboratory to look at all the bryophytes, which had been collected that day. I, for one, was very pleased overall with the collections I made as I was able to locate beautiful plants in all three groups which I am interested in, ie. Fossombronia, the hornworts and Asterella. Many additions were made to the species list already made for each of the areas visited and it was the first hepatics list compiled for the Bilpin Gorge area. No checklists of bryophytes have been published for the Blue Mountains, but it is hoped one will be published following compilation of each participant’s list and vouchers verified following this workshop.

But the overall highlight of this workshop and previous ones that I have attended is the camaraderie amongst all the participants. Everyone is always more than happy to pitch in whether it be to help new comers identify their collections or simply to do the dishes. Everyone mixes in and a lot of bryology and botany information is exchanged. The workshops have always been a time to catch up with old friends and make new acquaintances in a very relaxed atmosphere. If anyone were just a touch interested in the bryophytes I would heartily recommend coming along to a workshop and the next one is planned to be down south. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne will be celebrating 150 years in the year 2003, and one of the events will be the VII Australasian Bryological Workshop. It will be held after the ASBS meeting at Melbourne University, followed by the usual field excursions. We will certainly keep you posted on the future program!

[Christine Cargill]


5th International Flora Malesiana Symposium

The Centre co-hosted with the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, the 5th International Flora Malesiana Symposium last month. This was the first time Flora Malesiana had convened in Australia and overall it seems to have been a great success. There were 160 delegates altogether, with approx. 30% from within the Malesian countries.

Prior to the main meeting in Sydney we held a 3-day training workshop in Atherton on the production of interactive identification keys. The participants examined and played with many different keys initially and then actively consumed ideas and participated in discussions with the several ‘tutors’ involved. They all seemed to be able to sort out the various attitudes and unbiased opinions in these endeavours - Bernie Hyland pronounced his 10 commandments for specimen-based key generation and Kevin Thiele provided some theoretical basis to complement his expected liberal spattering of challenges and new ways of doing things. All participants enthusiastically built their own keys and argued about the pros and cons of characters. Siobhan Duffy provided a very good training session on the inclusion of images into these keys and a guide of what to do and importantly what not to do. The feedback from the participants was very positive, primarily because it was so hands-on.

Taking people out into the field to use the keys has its dangers …………………….-

The dangers of Interactive keys

- some of us needed more than hardhats when Jim’s computer packed it in…..dark clouds emerged from on-high. That time it was rejuvenated, but I’m not sure it is resurrectable after its Adelaide sojourn.

The main FM Symposium took place at RBG Sydney. We approached this meeting slightly differently from previous ones through the inclusion of several mini-symposia. Some of these, such as palms, ferns and orchids, brought together in a focused manner, the diversity of recent research work on these groups. This, as well as the associated workshops, provided their teams a more informed look to the future and to better plan the contributions to the publication of Flora Malesiana itself.

We invited a number of stakeholders involved in the biodiversity of the Malesian region to take part in a stakeholder mini-symposium. These presenters represented various sectors with interests in Malesian botany, who are users or funders of botanical information and systematics knowledge. We hoped that this would alert delegates to a broader perspective of FM and may assist with some of FM’s future plans.

The scientific program provided a stimulating forum and from many comments seemed to be successful. This aspect was the Centre’s responsibility in the organisation of the meeting and I am very pleased to say that I think we did us proud. It was by far the greatest number of paper presentations for any FM meeting and a higher percentage presented by in-country delegates. As with any meeting there was a mixture of good and not so good papers, but overall the standard was pretty good.

Several of our staff not only convened mini-symposia, but also gave papers or ran workshops. I would like to thank the members of the Organising Committee particularly for their input:

In addition, I’d like to thank Frank Zich and Kirsten Cowley for their efforts in producing the Program and Abstract booklet for the meeting – they did a great job and their efforts were appreciated. A copy is on the new journal library shelves for your perusal.

The next FM Symposium will be held in the Philippines in 2004.

[Judy West]


Nancy Burbidge Memorial Lecture


Participants at the 5th Flora Malesiana meeting in Sydney were treated to the ASBS Nancy Burbidge memorial lecture in the Maiden Theatre of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney. This year the lecture was presented by Judy West who spoke on the topic of "Biodiversity: building and mobilizing knowledge". The lecture was well attended, filling the hall to capacity.

Judy picked up on many aspects of Nancy's career and wove them into the pervading botanical documentation, information management and distribution themes of the Flora Malesiana Symposium and the botanical systematic ideals of the ASBS, illustrating her talk with examples of achievements and issues from contemporary progress in Australian Botany.

As part of the lecture, Judy was presented with the inaugural Nancy Burbidge Medal in recognition of her sustained and continued contribution to systematic botany and the study of the Australian Flora.

Congratulations Judy!


photo: Judy West's ASBS medal






3. Education and Communication

Advance notice: Robert Brown Diary

The fabled Diary of Robert Brown in Australia has gone to press (24 September) and will be published in time for a launch at the Investigator 200 Symposium in Albany , WA, 9-11 December 2001.

It runs to nearly 700 pages, has 4 halftone text figures, 41 maps, 33 colour plates and 43 pages of index. In a word, a new benchmark for field trip reports (even if it did take 200 years to write).

Watch this space for details on price and availability.

[Tony Orchard]


4. Information Technology and Data Management


Useful website addresses:

Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research

Greening the Grainbelt


5. Herbarium

Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria (CHAH)

Judy West attended the CHAH meeting in Adelaide last week, during which the major item on the agenda was the AVH. Jim Croft met concurrently with some of the HISCOM representatives and then we had a combined CHAH-HISCOM meeting to discuss and thrash out some of the AVH logistical matters. It was a very useful meeting and we made considerable progress for this massive collaborative project involving our Australian herbaria. We will be having meetings with all the relevant staff in the next few weeks to discuss some of the operational matters and implementation for the AVH in the CPBR.

[Judy West]


5. General Centre Matters

Science meets Parliament (SmP)

Over the past few years, FASTS (the Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies) has held annual meetings in Canberra at which practising scientists have meetings with Federal parliamentarians. Both Senators and Members of the House of Representatives participate. This year 70% of parliamentarians met scientists; in fact there were not enough scientists to go around and several scientists had two meetings with MPs. SmP is an opportunity for scientists to discuss issues of concern (hopefully only science issues, not taxation, frequency of garbage collection and the like!!) with an MP. Often meetings are between a scientist and their local member or State/Territory Senator, which brings science, jobs in science, dollars, etc right to the attention of the politician.

This year Andrew Young, Brendan Lepschi and myself participated in the SmP held on 21 and 22 August. "My" MP was the shadow minister of Defence, Stephen Martin, whose electorate is based on Wollongong. He was keen on science, not only from the obvious defence connection but because research was important in maintaining an edge for the heavy engineering industries in which many of his constituents are employed (e.g. Australian welding technology is very highly advanced on a global scale and is an export industry). From our own plant perspective, the defence forces are managers of large areas of Australia (training grounds, etc) and there are opportunities for us to have a greater involvement in the areas of floristic survey and conservation biology (especially weed management issues). Hopefully contact between this MP and us can be maintained in future.

SmP is a really good way for scientists to meet MPs and lobby not only for science in general but for their own patch also. [Regretfully, I couldn’t sell this year’s MP any unique opportunities to invest in jambu research – certain to be a growth industry!! – but next year might be another story!!]

[Lyn Craven]




6. Other News

The Centre hosted a number of visitors during September and they included:

Dr Tom Lovejoy, Adviser for the World Bank and Counsellor at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington - round table discussion at ANH

Lina Juswara, from Herbarium Bogoriense - working on orchids

Julie Barcelona from the Philippines National Herbarium - working on ferns

Ed de Vogel from Leiden - working on orchids

Himmah Rustiami from Herbarium Bogoriense - working on palms

John Dransfield and Bill Baker from Kew - working on palms

Josephine Camus from the British Museum - working on ferns

Bob Johns from Kew - working on ferns


7. Diary of Events/Activities




Details (relate to projects)


1 Oct

Biennial ASGAP Conference, Canberra

Judy West

Opening Address


4 Oct

Seminar 12.30 pm CPBR

Frank Zich

"A botanical gold-rush in Papua New Guinea"


29 Oct - 2 Nov

National Conference of Volunteer Guides in Botanic Gardens

Several staff