Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research
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: Val.Oliver@csiro.au
Bernie Hyland retires
In February 2002, after a career spanning over 40 years Bernie Hyland (rain forest botanist) retired from CSIRO.
Bernie began his botanical career with the Queensland Department of Forestry in 1960, in 1971 he moved to the Commonwealth Forest Research Institute, then to CSIRO in 1975 for the Division of Forest Research and finally in 1985 he transferred to CSIRO Plant Industry. From 1993 he has been part of the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research.
Bernie was instrumental in the development of the herbarium in Atherton [QRS] which now houses approx. 130,000 plant collections. He has made significant contributions to the understanding of Australias rain forests, and has particular expertise in the Lauraceae. Bernies major project on which he has been working for approx. 40 years is "Australian Tropical Rain Forest Plants". This is an interactive identification and information system which now covers all the trees, shrubs and vines across northern Australias rain forests, published on CD-ROM and including 2154 species. Bernies foresight in developing this product has been recognized world-wide as an innovative contribution to botany and the distribution of information, so difficult to make accessible in other ways. The rain forest key has been an extremely successful venture and Bernie should be proud of his efforts.
From February 2002 Bernie continues as a CSIRO Honorary Research Fellow to complete the Rainforest Key CD-ROM project.
2. Research Groups
The Pea Key
Some of you will have noticed we have Ed Biffin again tied to the legume bench in the herbarium furiously coding up the remainder of the legume taxa for The Pea Key. Ed is working with us for four months on an ABRS grant. His input on the key last year was tremendous and he has done an excellent job coordinating the coding input from the various researchers around the country. Siobhan Duffy and Kirsten Cowley are also contributing their respective expertise to the project, enabling us to incorporate images and the nomenclatural aspects for all native and naturalised legumes.
Ed has been granted the 2002 ABRS Postgraduate Research Scholarship and will begin his PhD in June on Syzygium with Lyn Craven, Mike Crisp at ANU and Paul Gadek at JCU, Cairns.
Fieldwork in South Africa, Namibia, and Argentina.
My fieldwork was sponsored by a grant from the National Geographic Society
to collect members of the Gnaphalieae for my worldwide phylogeography project.
I was accompanied in the trip by Dr. Gregory Chandler, formerly of the CPBR,
now a postdoc at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, USA. Greg
is currently working on "umbels" (Araliaceae, Hydrocotyloids, and Apiaceae)
and was interested in collecting those on the trip. We left Sydney bound for
Johannesburg on 3 December and were met my Dr. Marinda Koekemoer, curator at
PRE and a specialist on Gnaphalieae. After spending a couple of days looking
at specimens at PRE we set out with Marinda on a 6 day field trip to the low
veld country in Mpumalanga Province (formerly Eastern Transvaal) between Pretoria
and Nelspruit near the Kruger National Park and the Mozambique border. Collecting
focused mainly on species of Helichrysum, which are common in these wet grasslands.
The remaining time in eastern South Africa saw us conducting day trips out of
Pretoria into the Northern Province, Northwestern Province and Gauteng. We flew
from Jo-burg to Cape Town (Kaapstad) on 16 December, spending one day in the
Compton Herbarium at Kirstenbosch as guests of Dr. Ted Oliver and Mrs. Jo Beyers.
From there we had several day trips out of out of Cape Town; down the Cape Peninsula
(one of the most diverse areas for plant life in the world); out to the Hottentot's
Holland Mountains; etc. We had one long 3 day trip up north as far as Van Rhynsdorp
(a place famous for quartzite outcrops and stone plants of the family Aizoaceae).
The Western Cape and Northern Cape Provinces are very diverse for Gnaphalieae
and we collected a number of strange monotypic genera there. Christmas was spent
in Cape Town and the owners of our guesthouse had a great Christmas dinner for
all the guests in the house. On Boxing Day we flew by small plane up to Walvis
Bay, the port city of Namibia, formerly German Southwest Africa. We stayed in
the town of Swakopmund, at the mouth of the Swakop River, as the name translates.
German and English are spoken here, along with some Afrikaans. We collected
in some of the isolated desert mountain ranges, such as the Brandberg and Blutkoppe.
Driving into the desert due east of Swakopmund and about 100 km inland we reached
the Valley of the Welwitchia. It was a real botanical treat to see these strange
Gnetophytes in situ, some individuals are refuted to be 1500 years old.
On January 31 we were on our way to Buenos Aires via London, arriving in the
Argentine capital on the morning of January 4. We were met my Mauricio Bonifacino,
who I had been corresponding with for 10 months about arrangements for our trip.
Mauricio is an expert on Compositae of the tribe Astereae. He took us to La
Plata, which is the capital city of Buenos Aires Province, and the home of the
Museo de La Plata (LP). From the moment we arrived, it was a course in intensive
Spanish for Greg and I, as very few people outside academia speak any English.
We spent one day in the herbarium collecting locality information then set out
on a five day collecting tour of Buenos Aires Province, especially concentrating
on the only real mountain range in the province, Sierra de la Ventana (Window
Mountain). This mountain range, being isolated from most of the main Andean
Ranges, contains a number of endemics, including Gnaphalieae. On return to La
Plata we spent a couple more days in the herbarium collecting locality data
and talking with Compositae specialists of which there are no less than six!
On January 12 we flew to Salta, in far northwest Argentina. This is the most
diverse area for Gnaphalieae in Argentina. We spent 6 days in Salta and Jujuy
Provinces and drove as far north as La Quiaca on the Bolivian border. We stayed
there for 3 days at an altitude of 3400 metres and explored mountain passes
up to 4700 metres. Three solid days of mild altitude sickness was enough for
me and I was relieved to get back to the lower elevation at Salta on January
18th. At least we made a good haul of daisies and umbels, which made the trip
worthwhile. Next it was flying on to Mendoza in central Argentina at the foot
of the Andes, some peaks of which tower over the city at 6000+ metres. Five
days of day trips into the Andes netted us some good collections including a
plant I have wanted to collect for 20 years, Antennaria chilensis. As curator
of Calyceraceae for CANB, I collected several species in the family .... at
least soon we'll have some Calyceraceae in CANB for me to curate! Finally on
January 23 we flew to Ushuaia at the southern tip of Argentine Patagonia in
Tierra del Fuego. As with most Argentine internal flights we were onboard a
"milk run" ... on this particular leg we flew from Mendoza to Neuquen, then
to Comodoro Rivadavia, then on to Rio Gallegos, and finally to Ushuaia. On Isle
Grande (the Grand Island), where daytime summer highs average about 10C, we
collected all the Gnaphalieae species known from Tierra del Fuego and one extra
species that was unknown from there. Greg had very good luck with his umbels
as well, as this is the most diverse area in Argentina for the group. On January
28 we returned to Buenos Aires and La Plata amidst all the street protests over
the currency crisis.
We spent several days in the herbarium to put some determinations on our specimens. After 9 weeks, 23 plane flights, and ~10,000 km on the ground, I returned to Canberra and Greg to Richmond.
If you want to hear and see more about this trip please come to my ASBS lecture on June 27th "Absolutely fabulous plants, vegetation, and views from South Africa, Namibia and the Argentine."
3. Education and Communication
Student Botanical Intern Program 2002
Participants and Institutions
2002 represents the tenth year that the Student Botanical Intern Program has been run. A total of 26 applications were received for the Program, with 18 placements offered and 17 accepted. In total, 17 interns successfully completed the Program in 2002. The number of applications received this year was comparable to numbers in recent years.
Nine Australian universities were represented along with a Boston University (USA) graduate. As would be expected, Canberra-based institutions were the best represented with five students, however three UNE students took part in the internship this year reflecting the strength in botanical training found at this institution. The trend of low numbers from Sydney continues, with only two students taking part in the program. There was no representative from the ANBG Living Collections this year.
The 2002 interns took the opportunity of meeting past interns (representatives from most years) at a dinner organised in the second last week of the program. Overall participants thought it was a good networking opportunity for the 2002 interns with regard to future education and employment prospects.
Output achieved by Interns during 2002 is roughly equal to 1.7 years work (of an entry-level TO), based on a 200-day working year. The exact figure is yet to be calculated.
There was a major push to process herbarium specimens identified as being in priority groups for the AVH project this year. Intern labour was directed largely to the processing of Poaceae, Myrtaceae and priority weed groups. This work included mounting and incorporation of vascular and non-vascular specimens, identification of specimens, assistance with loans and exchange, databasing, determining specimen geocodes, spirit collection maintenance and general lab and herbarium tasks.
Following the success of the four-day residential field trip to Jervis Bay over the last couple of years, it was decided to continue this exercise in 2002. The main focus of this years trip was to conduct a mock botanical survey of a patch of coastal bush near the South Coast town of Manyana. Interns had to collect as many plants from the area as possible, identify them and make a small report all in the one day. So for those who think its just a trip to the beach, its so much more!
Assistance was also provided to various research groups such as Fire Ecology, cryptogams, Cakile host-pathogen work, Orchids, Pultenaea and the testing of the "pea key" interactive product. Long term backlog collections (some dating to the thirties) stored in the Herbarium link were processed ready for databasing; these specimens are then in the collection ready for the AVH databasers. An estimate of the "fullness" of the herbarium compactus pigeonholes was also conducted to help plan for future expansion needs.
The 2002 Program attracted some media attention; the Canberra Times interviewed Anthony Whalen and requested field trip photos from Jervis Bay. An article indicating that this years interns had completed databasing 6 million specimens was included in the CT March 6!
Overall, the 2002 Interns Program was very successful. Work output was high, and covered a similar range of tasks to previous years along with a focus on processing priority herbarium material for the AVH project. All Interns were also provided with Evaluation Forms for the Program, and of those returned, overall feedback has been very positive. These forms are available from Anthony Whalen for any staff interested in perusing them.
The success of the 2002 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, enthusiasm and support during the course of the Program. On a personal note, I would like to thank Brendan Lepschi who made the hand over of the Coordination role to myself so much easier by his support and encouragement.
Robert Brown Symposium
On Tuesday 23rd April the CPBR will be holding a Robert Brown Symposium (late afternoon) in the Discovery Centre. This will culminate in a talk (c. 6-7pm) by David Mabberley on Robert Brown followed by drinks and nibbles. The timetable for this is not complete and speakers are still being sought. A charge will be made to cover costs.
On Wednesday 24th April (6-7pm), David Mabberley will give a talk on Ferdinand Bauer at the National Library. There will be no sustenance and no charge for this presentation.
More information nearer the time.
Fungi and the public
Along with cooler temperatures, autumn will bring fungal enquiries from the public. In fact, the later summer conditions have already produced an early appearance of many specimens and a number of enquiries. In most cases the specimens brought in to the ANBG information centre for identification have been in the genus Agaricus, with a few boletes in the genus Suillus also turning up from under pine trees. Naturally, people will be warned about species known to be poisonous but the ANBG policy is not to give any "edibility check". While each year brings specimens from people who are obviously interested in edibility (and are ingenious in the ways they ask the edibility question), the proportion of pure curiosity enquiries is pleasingly high.
In fact, each year some specimens brought in by the public are of special interest, being species not yet represented in the herbarium or species that are FUNGIMAP targets (see http://calcite.apana.org.au/fungimap/). A group of specimens collected some years ago from a Canberra garden have turned out to be a new species, which should be published sometime in the next year. This underscores the fact that there are more unknown than known species and, especially in a city like the bush capital, it's not that hard to come across undescribed species.
4. Information Technology and Data Management
Who are those plant collectors ?
CPBR staff may not be familiar with a resource that has slowly been developing on our web site over the years. Its a listing of Australian plant collectors and illustrators from 1770 - 1988 with dates of birth etc. It started as a draft publication by Willis et al from the mid-1980s which I OCR'd to develop the basic web site. Since then I have slowly enhanced it with additional entries when people bring them to my attention.
Its URL is www.anbg.gov.au/bot-biog
To supplement this basic list, I've linked it to brief biographical entries when I come across them or people send them to me. The starting point for these was Tony Orchard's listing in the 2nd edition of Vol.1 of Flora of Australia with a contribution of artists from Helen Hewson.
The URL for the biographies is www.anbg.gov.au/biography
I'm happy to receive any contributions, updates and especially corrections.
Its interesting to note that the Herbarium in Sydney is checking their collectors against this list as they enter their AVH data.
5. General Centre Matters
Centre Report 1999-2001
The biennial Report on Centre activities covering the period 1999 - 2001 has now been published. This document is basically a report card to the Parties that support the Centre, particularly our parent bodies CSIRO Plant Industry and Environment Australia, but also for many of our stakeholders. It attempts to present a summary of the coverage of activities across the Centre as well as providing some idea of how we operate. The report therefore provides information about our research and herbarium activities to those who provide resources to support the functions and also to others with whom we collaborate. Additionally, the Report is aimed to "advertise" the Centre and to put forward a clear picture of our capacity and the areas in which we have skills and expertise. Weve received some positive feedback from several people in the past couple of weeks, especially commenting on the useful amount of information, so I hope that indicates it has hit the mark.
A considerable number of copies (400) of the Centre Report have been distributed, primarily to our collaborators and colleagues, stakeholders and clients, funders and potential sources of funding, as well as friends and those we think should be aware of the breadth of our work. If you think we might have missed some critical players please inform Val (the distribution list is with her). There are enough copies for each staff member and I think you will find it is a reasonable record of our activities of the past couple of years hopefully you will find that it is of some use to you. If you havent yet collected a copy please collect one from the Centre office. Also, if you arent happy with some aspects please let me or Val know we need the feedback to help improve it next time.
6. Other News
Greg Chandler, former member of the CPBR, and currently in a post-doc position at the Virginia Commonwealth University, has accepted the position of Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He will be taking up that post in January 2003, following the completion of his two year post-doc in Richmond.
ANBG Management Plan in effect
The ANBG is declared a Reserve under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). Under that Act there is a requirement for a Management Plan to be produced for each Reserve. The second Plan for the ANBG has been produced and was gazetted on 10 January and tabled in the House of Reps and the Senate on 12 February. The Plan must be laid before both Houses of the Parliament after approval by the Minister and is then subject to disallowance by either House on a Notice of Motion given within a further 15 sitting days.
If a disallowance motion does not take place, the Plan is in its final form. Much of the Plan concerns the ANBG's input to the Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research and could be of interest to staff. It is in effect for 7 years.
There is a copy in the Centre's Library and its also available on the web:
Letter to the Editor
We must take great exception to the slur contained in the claim we wimped out of the Jervis Bay field trip. There were solid medical reasons for our absence.
A weekend of fieldwork along the Thredbo River (Tiger Snake capital of Australia) and climbing hundreds of metres uphill into the glacial conditions of the new Kosciusko Ice Age brought considerable exhaustion.
And we brought back a Selaginella. Anyone with any sensibility will realize that picking up even a fern ally causes severe trauma. Judith tried to disguise her trauma by pointing out the flowers on the beast. And there was of course the perfectly justifiable fear of again being trapped in Manyana for two days while Brendan keeps chanting his mantra "I know it's this way."
Heino & Judith