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- CPBR News 16-

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

For the information of CPBR and ANBG staff and volunteers

May, 1999

1. Herbarium and Services

1.1 "Fulltime" Volunteer

Orchid Research Group is privileged to have the services of a "fulltime " volunteer. Lorraine Cosgriff is visiting Canberra until the end of June and has taken the opportunity to indulge a lifelong interest in Australian native orchids. At present Lorraine is located in Room 3.5 with Marion and Karina and will be seen in and out of the orchid collection dealing with the "mounting backlog".

[Marion Garratt]

1.2 Legumes and Rutaceae Field Trip

Gino Corsini (ANBG) and I travelled to the Blue Mountains and Sydney to collect plants to add to the Sydney Region Flora section of the Botanic Gardens. The trip was five days long and collection was centred mainly around Blackheath (three days), with a day at Mt Irvine and another day around Hornsby.

Our main priority was to collect legumes and Rutaceae, but naturally I could not pass up the many sedges and rushes we came across. There was also a nice range of epacrids in flower. Gino took care of collecting the live cuttings and seed, while I wrote up the collections and took matching herbarium specimens.

[Anthony Whalen]

1.3 Shoulder deep in Amaranthaceae

As you all may or may not be aware my position here at the Centre not only encompasses the management of the ANH collection but also some research time on several genera in the family Amaranthaceae. The deadline for the Flora of Australia treatment of Amaranthaceae has been brought forward to mid November this year, meaning a rather increased research effort on my part to complete the treatment. As from June 1st to mid October 1999 I will be spending 4 days a week on completing this treatment and one day a week on herbarium collection management. ABRS will be providing some support to cover some of my general curatorial duties. From now until mid October Bob Makinson will look after all loan requests and also please inform him of any visitors or tour groups wishing to visit the herbarium. For any general herbarium business that would normally come my way, please see Bob, Brendan Lepschi or Joan Graham (as I am easily distracted by such matters which is good for you, but not for me). Or you can email me and I will get back to you on my herbarium day, which will probably be Wednesday. Thank you.

[Jo Palmer]

2. Research Groups

2.1 Replacement for Ann Langston

Ann Langston has taken five months maternity leave and whilst away, Neil Bagnall will take on her duties in the lab. Welcome Neil.

2.2 Ian Brooker Retires

Ian Brooker retired on Wednesday, 2 June. Ian has been with CSIRO for more than 20 years mainly working on eucalypts. Ian will be continuing his work with the Centre as an Honoury Research Fellow concentrating on eucalypt curation with EUCLID. The Centre will host a farewell for Ian on Friday, 18 June. Invitations are on the way.

2.3 Exotic grasses, fires and conservation in the 'Top End', Northern Territory

The dry season arrived officially in the 'Top End' on May 1. Being there in late April I just missed the start but the smoke was already rising and the tourists, and a few locals, were flocking to the first Mindil Beach Market of the year - 15,000 of them this time. The media were worried about the tourist-repelling salt-water crocodiles in Katherine Gorge and the unrelenting march of the cane toads from Queensland. Not mentioned, but of serious concern to the Bush Fire Council and conservation authorities are the spreading exotic grasses.

Andropogon gayanus (Gamba Grass), from Africa, was introduced for the pastoral industry. It looks like sugar cane and dwarfs the native Sorghum spp., the most common fuel for dry-season fires. The Gamba Grass creates a fuel load of up to 20 t/ha (Piers Barrow, personal communication) whereas the Sorghum is usually 2-5 t/ha. Pennisetum polystachion (Mission Grass) is less of a problem but again appears more productive than the local grasses around Darwin. These grasses grow on the better-drained areas like the savannas. With severe late dry season fires in Sorghum (with leaf litter), trees like Terminalia spp. and Erythrophleum can be killed. With the increase in fuel load created by Gamba Grass, fire intensities multiply so that the potential for killing trees is sharply increased where this species has invaded.

In wetter areas, like the extensive flood plains, the highly productive exotic grass Brachiaria mutica (Paragrass) has invaded, created higher fuel loads, increased fire intensities and killed out patches of rainforest. I'm told that if you carefully watch the film Crocodile Dundee you can see jungle patches on the floodplain near Ubirr (Obiri Rock) but if you go there today one particular patch is no where to be seen. Apparently this absence has been caused by the invasion of the exotic grass and the subsequent high-intensity fires (Piers Barrow, personal communication).

The Top End is a very fiery environment. If you would like to get some idea of this then you could look at the new maps of Australia showing all fires detected by satellite over the past year; they can be found on the wall just outside the fire-ecology lab.

[Malcolm Gill]

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 Web Site Maintenance

The Executive Committee see maintenance and update of the Web Site as a high priority particularly with regard to information about the Centre and its progress.

Jim Croft has overall responsibility for the site. Suzie Dietrich will soon be asking staff for input from their areas. Please peruse the existing site, especially the Staff section and send Suzie information for collation and addition.

Program Leaders have been asked to update information in research and program areas and will be speaking to relevant staff about their projects.

We would like to add to the site and incorporate such items as specific research papers and other items of botanical interest. Again, would staff send relevant information to Suzie.

[Jim Croft]

4. Education and Communication

5. General Centre Matters

5.1 Rain Forest Key Launch

On Monday, 17 May, the Australian Tropical Rain Forest Trees and Shrubs CD-ROM was launched at the National Library of Australia by Dr Malcolm McIntosh. Bernie Hyland was present with slingshot and hard hat. Original artworks by Bill Cooper, Terry Nolan and Ellis Rowan complimented the launch and were matched to herbarium specimens where possible. We had considerable media coverage, with TV and radio and newspaper articles. Many staff put in a lot of time and effort to make this launch a success. My thanks to all concerned.

[Judy West]

5.2 Farewell to Lucy Blackburn

Lucy Blackburn, our Graduate Administrative Assistant, finished her term at the Centre on Friday, 21 May. Lucy has been with us for the past three months, working on the Centre Strategic Plan. We bid farewell to Lucy and wish her all the best in her future career. When finalised the Strategic Plan will be circulated to all staff.

5.3 Staff Meeting

A formal staff meeting was held on Wednesday, 19 May to discuss the Review Recommendations and the Strategic Plan. Formal staff meetings to discuss specific issues will be scheduled as required.

Documentation on both items was distributed beforehand and Staff were asked if they had any concerns with either. Discussion followed and suggestions by staff will be incorporated into the appropriate document.

The Review Recommendations tables will now be sent to the Centre Board and the draft Strategic Plan will be finalised, tabled for the Board and implemented.

[Judy West]

7. Diary of Events/Activities

Details (relate to projects)

Mar - Aug
Visiting Scientist
Ross Bradstock
Working with Malcolm Gill.

27 May - 7 June
Plant Name Project Technical Workshop and Conference
Greg Whitbread
Greg will attend the Plant Name Project technical workshop and conference to be held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

9 Jun and 16 Jun
EUCLID Workshops - Shepparton and Bathurst
Judy West, Ian Brooker, Andrew Slee and John Connors
Two more EUCLID Workshops will be held in Shepparton and Bathurst to gain community involvement by testing EUCLID 1.

12 Jun - 12 Jul
Overseas Visit to UK and USA
Tony Willis
Tony will visit the University 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.

5 Jul - 11 Aug
IPGRI Honorary Research Fellowship, Rome followed by International Botanical Congress, St Louis.
Tony Brown
IPGRI workshop on In Situ conservation of agricultural biodiverity in Nepal. This will be followed by the IBC, St Louis, Keynote Symposium on Plant Conservation Biology

13 Jul - 22 Aug
Overseas field work in Bogor
Lina Juswara
As part of her MSc studies, Lina will collect orchid samples in West Java and visit the Kebun Raya Botanic Gardens and Herbarium Bogoriense.

31 Jul - 8 Aug
International Botanical Congress - USA
Judy West, (24 Jul-8 Aug) Tony Brown, Randy Bayer, Pete Thrall, Curt Brubaker and Rogier de Kok
The IBC will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Judy, Tony and Randy are symposium co-organisers, and, as with Pete, will present papers. Curt and Rogier will present posters. Judy will represent the ANH at the Nomenclature Section the week before.

29 Aug - 13 Sep
Overseas visit to Sweden
Jeremy Burdon
Jeremy will visit Sweden to continue collaboration with Professor Lars Ericson on host-pathogen coevolution.

Aug 1999 - Aug 2001
Visiting Scientist
Dr Anita Davelos
Dr Davelos will work in our labs for two years with Jeremy Burdon on the interaction of host and pathogen mating systems in Melampsora-Linum. Dr Davlos has been awarded an NSF Post-doctoral Scholarship.

10 Aug - 10 Oct
Visiting Scientist
Dr Tamas Pocs
Bryological visitor from Hungary to work with Heinar Streimann on liverworts.

Sep 1999 - Feb 2000
Visiting Scientist
Professor Don Les
Professor Don Les, University of Connecticut, will spend approx. 5 months sabbatical leave working with Randy Bayer on Gnaphalieae (Asteraceae) and seagrasses. Professor Les has recently won a Fullbright Senior Fellowship.

Nov 1999 - end of Feb 2000
Visiting Scientist
Brian Murray
Brian will work with Andrew Young on analysis of genetic structure in Metrosideros excelsa (a New Zealand tree species subject to habitat fragmentation) and the cytological analysis of Rutidosis populations.

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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