Issue 21: September 1999
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 Suzie Dietrich, the coordinator.
This is your newsletter, please contribute news relating to the Centre.
Suzie Dietrich: ph (02) 6246 5533; fax (02) 6246 5249; email:

1. Herbarium and Services

1.1 Loans

Thanks to John Hook's great ingenuity and patience, we now have a loan application attached to the new ANHSIR database that works! This application will in due course be incorporated into a more comprehensive system for managing the movement of living and dried material within and beyond the Centre.

The new application makes getting loan lists out quite a straightforward task (once the specimens are databased!), unlike in the past. One thing that we are especially pleased about is that we will now be able to process returned CANB loans and get them out of the Loans bottleneck much faster. Julie Paul is hoping to teach the next batch of interns how to update names on ANHSIR, and get the determinations on these returned loans done! Then these loans will come back to the Group Curators, and finally back onto the shelves. Group Curators - if you want to check the determinations before they are databased, please see Helen or Ros, and we'll show you where returned loans in your groups are held.

Another achievement in loans over the last few months has been the clearing of most of the backlog of the outward going duplicates. This has been mostly due to the mammoth effort of our volunteer, Nick Hulskamp, who has also been most helpful with checking off returned CANB loans and incoming duplicates.

[Helen Hadobas]

1.2 Herbarium Volunteers

During the last six months ten more people have joined the Volunteer Mounting Program. They are:

The extra hands have been very welcome, helping us to mount large numbers of specimens including all of the unmounted ferns. The perseverance of "The Mounties" has to be seen to be believed as they wade through box after box.

We have planned a morning tea to thank our Herbarium helpers and to once again acknowledge the contribution of longer serving members of the Program. All members of staff are welcome to join us in the Crosbie Morrison Building, ANBG at 10.30 on the 14th October.

[Faye Davies]

1.3 CHAH

Judy West attended the annual Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria (CHAH) meeting in Melbourne October 4-5. Representatives were present for all Australian herbaria (except PERTH), the University Herbaria and the National Collection of Fungi. In addition, observers from New Zealand attended. Reports from herbaria will be circulated shortly.

The meeting covered a lot of business of a collaborative and cooperative nature. The recently published "Resources of Australian Herbaria" received a lot of praise and CHAH members felt it is a major product for the Council to use as a flagship.

Another highlight of the meeting was the demonstration by HISCOM’s representative of the operational Virtual Australian Herbarium (VAH). It was great to see how much has been achieved with regard to bringing together distribution data from all major herbaria for others to access.

[Judy West]

1.4 Resources of Australian Herbaria

This is a publication compiled by Kirsten Cowley and Judy West on behalf of CHAH (Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria) – published by the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, 1999. 500 copies have been printed, with the contributing institutions and stakeholders receiving one to many copies. A text version is to be available on the Web in the very near future, eventually becoming an interactive version.

This booklet was compiled from questionnaires sent to all the major herbaria in Australia and many other smaller herbaria, including most of those at universities. The three herbaria maintaining major fungal collections are also included. The booklet has entries from 28 institutions. It contains expanded information of the type in "Index Herbariorum" and also includes analyses of each of the institutions holdings as well as analyses of the "National Collection".

We couldn’t have produced such a good looking product without the expert help from Carl Davies (PI VRU) and we are very grateful to him for all his time and effort.

We have received many positive and complimentary comments from within Australia and overseas regarding this publication and it will be used to raise the profile of CHAH and Herbaria and the role they play.

[Kirsten Cowley and Judy West]

2. Research Groups

2.1 Weeds Conference - Hobart

Richard Groves, Tony Willis and John Vranjic each attended the 12th Australian Weeds Conference in Hobart between the 12th and 16th of September. Richard presented a paper on "sleeper weeds", John a paper on his "best bet management" strategy for Bitou, and Tony a paper on competitive interactions between Bridal creeper and Pimelea spicata. The conference provided an opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues, and to meet and discuss ideas with new contacts. Previous Australian Weeds conferences have emphasised weeds of cropping and pasture systems, including their management - usually by herbicides. A pleasing feature of the Hobart meeting was the increased attention paid to weeds of natural ecosystems: about 1/3 of all sessions were devoted to "environmental weeds", thereby recognising their major impacts on biodiversity.

[Tony Willis]

2.2 Pea-flowered Legume Workshop 1999

We recently held a workshop in the Centre to progress research on the pea-flowered Australian legumes, primarily dealing with the native tribes Mirbelieae, Bossiaeeae and Brongniartieae. The main aim of the workshop was to facilitate the exchange of information and to lay the ground work for joint projects between the participants.

A number of participants from other institutions attended, including Peter Wilson, Peter Weston and Peter Jobson from Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, Jim Ross from Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, Jenny Chappill from University of Western Australia, and Tony Orchard and Annette Wilson from ABRS.

Thursday 30 September

The main focus of this day was on cataloguing the latest developments in the different groups, with the focus on phylogeny. During the workshop the high level phylogeny was covered by Jenny Chappill and Mike Crisp. Overviews of particular genera where given by Rogier de Kok, Peter Jobson, Jenny Chappill, Mike Crisp, Greg Chandler, Peter Wilson and Jim Ross. During the workshop it became clear that most of the generic problems are concentrated in the multi-embryo group (Pultenaea, Oxylobium and Callistchachys groups) of Mirbelieae. Another problem that came to the foreground was sampling. A number of the bigger genera which were thought not to be monophyletic in earlier analyses, appear to be monophyletic if the analysis includes a larger sample size.

One of the aims of the workshop was to inform the different researchers about each other’s (preliminary) results in this field. This turned out to be very successful and it was agreed to work towards a cooperative multi-authored combined analysis (molecular and morphology) of the Mirbelieae and Bossiaeeae. This work will include extra sampling of larger genera and an additional hopefully more variable gene. Randy Bayer and Joe Miller attended this day’s proceedings and it was useful to have input as to appropriate parts of the genome to concentrate on in the future. This work will be coordinated by Mike Crisp and is to be presented at the International Legume Conference to be held in Canberra in July 2001.

Friday 1 October

The focus of the second day was the character list for the Interactive Key. A preliminary character set had been developed by Greg Chandler with assistance from Rogier and Mike Crisp and distributed to all participants. The different characters were discussed and a version was agreed upon. The scope of the key and its potential users was discussed and it was agreed to work towards a key for the general public for all Fabaceae species in Australia to be published either on the internet or on CD. The Interactive Key is to be coordinated by Rogier de Kok. It was further agreed that in order to test the characters an initial small set of species (c. 10 from each workshop participant) is to be coded up by mid November, and that all species should be coded by mid 2000.

The group benefited enormously from Kevin Thiele’s knowledge during this day of discussions and no doubt we will be calling on his advice in the future. Other legume workers not directly involved with these three tribes, such as Les Pedley, Ian Cowie and Ailsa Holland, also want to participate. The interactive key part of the project will be developed and supported by the Centre and ABRS collaboratively.

This whole project is an exciting example of collaboration across Australian botanists and it should provide a stimulating model for others to use.

[Rogier de Kok & Judy West]

3. Information Technology and Data Management

3.1 WWW Site

The URL for the Centre can be found at:

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

3.2 Rollout of new desktop hardware and network software for EA staff

Over the past month, the EA computing environment on the Black Mountain site, including the ANBG and the Centre, was upgraded from MS Windows 3.1 to Windows NT, the office automation products were upgraded to MS Office 97 and the cc:Mail electronic mail was replaced with GroupWise. This brings EA staff to a compatible standard with the rest of the Department and the Centre in the area of word processing and spreadsheet software, and Groupwise is a major advance over its predecessor in the area of email. Part of the upgrade included a standardisation of all software products on the desktop and an upgrade of the Internet browsers. The upgrade included installation of new computer hardware and printers. The installation went reasonably smoothly, although slower than was hoped. Staff were provided training and assistance with the new software packages and Windows NT environment.

Network servers and routers were upgraded as part of this exercise, to improve efficiency and compatibility with the rest of the department. Unfortunately this part of the upgrade did not go quite as well and the network was isolated from the Internet for a week. Apart from the inability to send and receive external email (and email between ANBG and CSIRO in the Centre is considered external), the ANBG and CPBR web server was inaccessible. This was unacceptable to staff who use it to check and extract information and to external clients who have come to depend on access to our data as part of their business. This and a number of other network problems preventing access to the database have been fixed and staff are now able to continue business as usual.

[Jim Croft]

3.3 The Virtual Australian Herbarium Mapper

A proof-of-concept demonstration of the possibilities of the Virtual Australian Herbarium (VAH) was presented at the recent CHAH meeting in Melbourne. You can have a look at it at:

user: VAHuser

password: demonstration

It takes a few minutes to poll each of the herbaria and deliver the result, but the combined product is very interesting.

This demonstration is presently restricted to Acacia and to their Australian distribution, and the map is available at only one scale. Future implementations will enable selection of any combination of genus and species, selection of state and other regions, and perhaps overlays of other geographic features. The dots on the map are interactive and return a little information about the specimen represented by that record.

As part of CANB's contribution to the Virtual Australian Herbarium, access to the ANHSIR database was enhanced to include map output, a HISPID compatible export and an HTML version of the label.

For the time being, have a look at it at:

user: guest

password: g

Do not forget to append a trailing % to taxon name as a wildcard to wipe off the author. The maps are still being developed and some of the dots do not line up, but this will be fixed over the next month or so. The data export functions when installed by other herbaria will enable botanists to access data for their taxa of interest from all the Australian collections. That is, if they have been databased!

[Jim Croft]

4. Education and Communication

4.1 National Biodiversity Seminars

To celebrate National Biodiversity month in September, the Centre held a series of four seminars on consecutive Wednesdays aimed at informing the public of some of the big issues around biodiversity and the role of science in biodiversity and ecological sustainabililty.

The first seminar was opened by the Hon Sharman Stone MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage and featured Tom Lovejoy, Biodiversity Adviser to the World Bank. The format for the series included a main speaker(s) and a panel with audience participation. This appeared to work very well.

Topics for the series were:

  1. Biodiversity: State of the Australian Environment (speaker - Denis Saunders, CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology).
  2. Valuing Biodiversity (speaker - Steve Cork, CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology).
  3. Biodiversity and the Agricultural Landscape (speakers - John Williams, CSIRO Land and Water and Robert Lambeck, CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology).
  4. Biodiversity: Journey into the Unknown (speakers - Judy West, CPBR and Chris Margules, CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology.)
The series was very successful with a full-house at the Discovery Lecture Theatre for each seminar. Comments from the audience, via a survey conducted, were very complimentary. In fact, we have had so much positive feedback and requests for copies of transcripts that we are considering how to make the information from the series available to a wider audience. We will start by putting the four presentations on the CSIRO Biodiversity Sector web site. Other suggestions include a CD or video.

Thanks for support from Biodiversity Strategy Section of EA’s Biodiversity Group, and the marketing strategy funds from CSIRO’s Biodiversity Sector.

[Suzie Dietrich]

5. General Centre Matters

6. Other News

  1. Diary of Events/Activities
Date Event/Activity Who Details (relate to projects)
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.
30 Sep – 1 Oct Legume Workshop Rogier de Kok, Judy West, Greg Chandler Visitors from outside the Centre and others in the Centre to discuss collaboration and cooperation for pea flowering legume work across the nation.
5-6 Oct CHAH Judy West Melbourne, annual meeting.
11 Oct – 6 Nov Visiting Scientist Dr Peter Heenan Training in herbarium practices.
13 Oct CSIRO Collections Group Judy West Canberra, Wildlife & Ecology, Gungahlin 
22 Oct Field work Randy Bayer, Greg Chandler Flinders Ranges, SA
28 Oct – 6 Nov Field work Rogier de Kok, Judy West Kangaroo Island, SA
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.
Dec 1999 –

Dec 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.