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- CPBR News 2-

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

For the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers

March, 1998

1. Herbarium and Services

1.1 Field Trips

  • Heinar Streimann - Mosses

    Heinar Streimann conducted a one-day field trip chasing mosses in the Upper Shoalhaven / Bendethera area.

    [Bob Makinson]

  • Monga Field Trip

    Anthony Whalen took Don Foreman (ABRS) and Rogier de Kok (CPBR - working on Pultenaea) on a short one-day excursion to the Monga area. Don was seeking fruits of Atherosperma moschatum for his studies in Monimiaceae. A search for Atherosperma fruits for Don was unsuccessful, but several collections were made for the Public Reference Herbarium.

    [Bob Makinson]

    2. Research Groups

    2.1 Visit to New Zealand by Ian Brooker 13 - 22 March

    In December last year I was invited by the New Zealand Farm Forestry Association and the Forest Research Institute Herbarium at Rotorua to make a nine day visit to the North Island in March this year. The objective was to discuss the identification, uses and natural occurrence of all eucalypts in parks, arboreta, plantations and at the FRI herbarium.

    I flew to Auckland on Friday, 13 March. On the following morning I was met by Mike Wilcox, international forestry consultant with Groome Poyry (a Finnish company) and well known to the CSIRO Division of Forestry from visits to Canberra, Harry Bunn, the former head of the Forest Research Institute, Rotorua, and Chris Ecroyd of the FRI herbarium, also known to us from an earlier visit to CANB.

    We began on Saturday morning in driving torrential rain with the old trees in the Glen Eden cemetery and those in the extensive Cornwall Park in the city of Auckland. On Sunday the weather cleared and we travelled north to Whangarei and spent two days in plantation forests, at a small private timber mill where I souvenired two samples of milled eucalypt wood, and at local farm forestry and nursery projects. At one memorable site I was shown a young, extremely vigorous plantation of Eucalyptus nitens covering several hills. Eucalypts are a valuable timber source in the north and the favoured species are E. muelleriana (stringybark) and E. pilularis (blackbutt) which are sold without distinction for light-coloured timber. For dark timber, E. saligna and E. botryoides are sold, again without distinction, which gives some vindication to the science of taxonomy.

    On Tuesday we drove south via Auckland where I was shown in a suburban garden the largest Angophora (costata) I have ever seen. That night we reached Rotorua and I spent two days going through the Eucalyptus collection of the FRI herbarium. I gave a lunch time seminar on the evolution of characters in Eucalyptus.

    On Friday the four of us flew by chartered light plane to Wanganui and inspected the trees in various parts of the city. At all stops my brief was to check the species names, explain the methods of identification and discuss the natural environment of the species in Australia to assist with the climatic matching and other site factors. On Saturday there was a Public Invitation Field Day on a private farm south of Wanganui where over 100 farm foresters attended. I spent much of the time lecturing with loud hailer on the species present, and then inspected the trees of the farm forestry projects and discussed the characteristics of the species used.

    On Sunday, 22 March Chris Ecroyd and Harry Bunn drove back to Rotorua while Mike Wilcox and I flew from Palmerston North to Auckland where I left for Sydney.

    [Ian Brooker]

    2.2 EUCLID II

    EUCLID I is up and running. I even had the pleasure of showing and discussing it in New Zealand two weeks ago. The only criticism by our Kiwi friends was that it could have been perfected for them if we had included a dozen or so extra species from other areas that were important in their planting programs.

    Of course, EUCLID I was long ago agreed by us to be done regionally and there could have been, in any case, no consensus by all interested parties on what additional species to include. This problem will now be largely rectified by EUCLID II which has already begun. I estimate that the only really popular species that would remain untreated is Eucalyptus citriodora. The tropical species are not in great demand in overseas planting programs.

    EUCLID II will treat the remainder of southern Australia not included in EUCLID I. The area is defined by the large part of South Australia outside of the south-east of the State (covered in EUCLID I), and Western Australia south of latitude 26 which is the northern border of South Australia. 410 taxa are involved. Many are relatively inaccessible being in the Great Victoria Desert and on Aboriginal lands where entry can be difficult at times.

    The species will include all the most colourful of the Western Australian ornamentals plus the great trees of the south-west such as jarrah, karri and the tingles. The project has a few hard areas to solve, mainly through the uncertain taxonomy of some published species and the probability that many more species could be published by others during the compilation of EUCLID II. As the football coaches would say, we'll take it month by month, species by species.

    Our time frame is three years and we are currently putting together a schedule which we shall try faithfully to keep to, while being well aware of the possible pitfalls and disappointments that are inevitable. Andrew Slee and I are going to South Australia at the end of this month (April) to cover the State, apart from the desert and the Nullarbor, which will be treated in subsequent field trips. In August we are going to Western Australia to cover the bulk of the species which occur in the goldfields, the southern wheatbelt and the white sandplains.

    Meanwhile curation and coding of the CANB collections will continue, plus the compilation of the notes, affinities etc. Towards the end of this year we expect to have a fairly good idea of how reasonable our prognostications have been. There will be periodic reports in the CPBR Newsletter.

    [Ian Brooker]

    2.3 Interactive Key to Australian Flowering Plant Families

    The database for the Interactive Key to Australian Flowering Plant Families is almost complete (just two families to go!).

    The latest version is running on Laurie's computer, and anyone is welcome to put it to the test - or just ask for a demo; it now has Notes and Lists of Genera for each family.

    [Laurie Adams]

    2.4 Scot Kelchner - PhD Scholarship

    Scot Kelchner (State University Iowa, USA) has been offered the PhD Scholarship in Systematics of Flowering Plants to be undertaken at the ANH and sponsored by CSIRO PI. Scot will carry out most of his research at the Centre under the primary supervision of Judy West and with Randy Bayer for any molecular aspects; he will be enrolled at the ANU with Dr Mike Crisp as co-supervisor. We hope to have Scot join the team by late June.

    2.5 Two Year PDF in Rhizobia-Legume Interactions

    The Centre has been successful in retaining the remaining MDP funding for Pete Thrall's position, now that Pete has taken up his QEII Fellowship. A two year PDF will be advertised in Rhizobia-native legume interactions.

    3. Information Technology and Data Management

    3.1 Databasers

    The Centre has managed to obtain funding from CSIRO PI to the end of the financial year for some specimen databasing. Bronwyn Collins is working full-time, Will Inveen 20 hours a week, and Chris Penketh 12 hours a week. In addition, Simone Louwhoff will work 4 hours a week on some UC funds.

    Sara York has submitted her resignation as registrar and databaser extraordinaire to enable her to pursue her studies at the School of Horticulture. Unfortunately we were not able to find a means of retaining her on the books for the next 18 months. We wish her well and hopefully there will be a job in the system that she can apply for when she graduates. In the meantime, we will be seeking to fill the position on a permanent basis.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.2 Data Entry Forms

    Greg Whitbread and John Hook continue designing data entry forms to allow users to query and edit data on the combined herbarium database. Work is to start, editing authority, lookup and supporting data tables for the database, to achieve a degree of standardisation before the final merge and cutover. A meeting with herbarium staff Pennie Hohnen and Andrew Lyne revealed a number of procedural problems with accessing the data, that are now being addressed; a further meeting including Jo Palmer and Kirsten Cowley established an acceptable framework in which to access that data in appropriate ways, around which the application is being built.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.3 Australian Plant Name Index

    As part of her work on the genus Pultenaea for Judy West, Kirsten has been working with an extract of data from the APNI database, and will be gathering additional information to update, augment and correct the existing APNI entries. Planning has started to alter the data entry and output to meet the special requirements of this project.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.4 Environment Australia's Species Data Working Group

    The Centre's interests in this type of specimen and taxon data are being represented on the working group (headed by Arthur Chapman) by Jim Croft. So far the working group has concentrated on user requirements within EABG for species and specimen related data. Of particular interest to us is the demand for authoritative plant name data that can be built into other environmental applications, and the requirement for accurately geolocated point-based locality data, of both taxa and regions/sites. We hope that the desire to extract data from our collections will translate into support to database the specimens of strategically important taxa.

    There is a parallel working group considering vegetation and ecosystem data and how it may be used in predictive modelling and decision-making processes.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.5 CSIRO Biodiversity Bioinformatics Special Project

    Judy West and Jim Croft are part of a working group of representatives of the biodiversity collections of CSIRO (including Entomology, Wildlife and Ecology, etc.) to guide the construction of databases, gateways and interfaces to provide an integrated view of the combined CSIRO biological collections, with uniform and integrated reporting and data visualisation. This is a 2 and a half year program with considerable additional funding attached. Through this program the Centre expects to receive support for the development of gateways and interfaces to our collections and related data, tools for spatial visualisation of collections and taxon data, the development of a portable plant nomenclatural database application, and perhaps some assistance in editing authority file and related data to achieve the degree of integration that is expected. Technical support for a lot of this will be coming through CSIRO's IT division, CMIS.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.6 National Weeds Database

    Richard Groves, through his involvement with the Weeds Management CRC, is driving a project to establish a National Weeds Database. It is envisaged that the database will be available on-line through the WWW and will provide access to taxonomic, distributional, ecological legislative and management information on weed and potential weed species. The project will involve staff from the Weeds CRC, the Centre, the Biodiversity Group of Environment Australia and ERIN. Planning is underway for a workshop of stakeholder and key users in Canberra later this year.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.7 International Plant Names Project

    Greg Whitbread continues technical development, installation and testing with Harvard and Kew of WWW-based applications to share and edit plant name data between institutions. The modules, being developed primarily by IT staff employed by Harvard, will be able to be used by our own plant name applications.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.8 PNG BIORAP Project

    Although this project has essentially drawn to a close as far as the Centre is concerned, we are still interested in the data we have provided and what is being done with and to it, both to evaluate the taxon selection process and to learn the power and limitation of data extracted from biological collections. Judy West, Jo Palmer, Pennie Hohnen and Jim Croft attended a workshop at CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology where the analysis of specimen, terrain and environmental data was considered as part of the reserve and landuse selection process.

    [Jim Croft]

    3.9 Collaborative Project with CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology being investigated

    Judy West, Jeremy Burdon and Jim Croft had preliminary discussions with staff from CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology on possible projects of mutual interest to be supported by National Heritage Trust funding. The proposed project involves the provision, collection and analysis of quality botanical data through technologically sophisticated means for land-use planning and public information in the Mid Lachlan river area in collaboration with local land management groups.

    3.10 Year 2000 / Millennium Bug

    There are major awareness raising activities, in both government and commercial sectors, on the potential for malfunction of date-dependent computer applications and equipment and other systems at the turn of the century. All organisations are exposed to this problem, and the Centre is no exception. Work has started in identifying potential problem areas and assessing strategies to deal with these. If any of your applications or equipment refer to a day with only the last two digits of the year, you may find it will not do what you want it to on 1 Jan 2000, or worse, it may do what you do not want it to. If the system, home made, or off the shelf, is important to your project and you are not sure how it is going to behave, see Jim Croft to have it added to the list of things to be checked out.

    [Jim Croft]

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

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