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
PIEnvironment consists of a small group of people who have formed an entity, so that there is a face to Environmental Management at Plant Industry. Our main progress to date is simply to produce a pamphlet advertising the group, and have a basic intranet node on the OHS&E website. We have investigated a few options for recycling contracts, but the current contracts are fixed for varying time periods and cant be changed quickly. With only a couple of people able to devote small, single digit percentages of their work time to the group, PIEnvironment is not exactly going to revolutionise PI in a hurry, but hopefully the group will grow in people hours over the next few years and some good work will be done.
The Black Mountain site will be the subject of an environmental audit in the next month or two. PIEnvironment is currently involved in some background procedural paper work associated with the audit. Unfortunately with all things bureaucratic, there is and element of process is more important than outcome, but it is important to have some processes in place, to ensure that environmental initiatives have a mandate and continue regardless of personnel change.
Last Thursday and Friday, I went to a conference at ANU hosted by ANUGreen, the 3rd National Conference of Sustainable Campuses. Most CSIRO sites can safely be considered campuses, and the CSIRO Corporate Property Energy Manager, Michael Terry, could see enough similarities to present a paper. The whole conference was really inspirational, and hopefully over the next little while we can implement a few initiatives derived from the conference.
ANUGreen is the universitys organisation equivalent to PIEnvironment. ANU is much larger than PI, and ANUGreen has been in existence for a few years now, but they have four full time people working on energy conservation, recycling programmes and public information campaigns. Just one full-time person at PI would be amazing. It really does seem essential in this day and age for an organisation like PI at Black Mountain to have a staff member devoted to minimising unnecessary resource waste - from purchasing to consumption and disposal, not to mention the trickiest of all, influencing peoples behaviour. Shock and horror, it could even be economically viable to have such a person devoted to reducing utility bills.
One of the things I will be doing as Herbarium Building Manager as much as a PIEnvironment person, is to test the light levels in a lot of area in the Herbarium, with a view to removing fluorescent tubes if necessary. Everyone has a different needs when it comes to light intensity, but there is excessive light in a number of places. Pulling out a few tubes in key areas should make it easier on the eyes and reduce unnecessary light wastage. Fluoro tubes arent cheap either, so the less we need the better. Like all things environmental, the key to this light audit will be to reduce non-necessary light output, not for people to be going without their light requirements.
On Tuesday September 16 the Centre hosted our annual Volunteers Morning Tea to thank the Herbarium Volunteers for the time and effort they have put into their tasks over the year. The 43 volunteers mount more than 20000 specimens over the course of a year, an extremely valuable contribution as otherwise these specimens would sit in boxes, inaccessible to any one who may find them useful. In addition, we currently have one volunteer providing much needed assistance in loans.
6 volunteers were recognized for their long term commitment to the Volunteer program. Con Boekel presented awards to Ted and Cynthia Beasley, Gillian Redmond, Tony Wood and Margaret Mansfield for 5 years service and to Margaret Harding for 10 years service. Thanks to those staff members who volunteered to provide what turned out to be a sumptuous feast. The volunteers were extremely appreciative. I have also had a number of comments from the volunteers expressing how much they enjoy coming to work in the Herbarium.
Jim recently brought to my attention that a map collection including two map cabinets was being disposed of by CSIRO Atmospheric Research, in the Land and Water Building (CS Christian Building). I contacted the people without delay and being so close, secured the lot. It sounds like the collection was now obsolete to the group due to an altered research focus, and the retirement (retrenchment?) of a few people. Map cabinets are worth about $1000 each so for them alone it was a good haul, but we did get some good maps out of it also. Julie, Kim and I moved the maps, froze them, and decontaminated the cabinets.
The maps contributed well to filling some gaps in our geological 1:250 000 series. Bob Makinson started the geological 1:250 000 collection a few years ago by purchasing some maps that were on super special. There is now a whole cabinet devoted to geological maps, of varying scales. We also scored a few 1:100 000 topographical maps for which we didnt have a copy. I havent processed the 1:250 000 topographical maps yet, but presumably there will be some in that set that we didnt have a reference and/or field copy.
With the two new map cabinets, I plan to hang the Australia 1:50 000 topographical maps over three cabinets, rather than the current two. This should make the collection more easily accessible.
Also, the cabinets have been shuffled around to open up the room, and there will be some further shuffling when the remaining free maps are processed.
Everyone may not be aware that we have a good collection of SE NSW 1:25000 maps. They are folded and keep with the field map collection, on one of the lower shelves. There are very few maps at this scale for any other parts of the country.
Some of you may be interested in the AusGeo quarterly magazine, put out by Geoscience Australia. They contain articles about new products, practical applications of Geographic Information Systems, general articles about mapping concepts, etc. They live in the magazine rack on Level 3 of the new herbarium wing, near Anthony Whalens office.
A few people from CPBR recently went to a talk on an ambitious mapping project, mapping vegetation communities of NSW at 1:100 000 scale. There is not a lot of coverage currently available, but more is to come. http://www.dlwc.nsw.gov.au/care/veg/mapsynopsis/index.html
As always, any maps lying around the place that are no longer being used, or are no longer wanted, please get them to me. They might as well be incorporated into the map room collection for all to use. The map amnesty is ongoing! Its probably a good quarantine idea to freeze all maps coming from outside the herbarium. If you want to leave them in the Prep Room, I will organize the freezing to be done. As always, yell out if you have any questions or would like some assistance in the Map Room.
A revised CPBR field book is in the draft stages. The new fieldbook will ask for a datum to be associated with the latitude/longitude. A datum is a model of the earths surface, that a coordinate system can be applied to (we generally use latitude and longitude as the coordinate system). The same lat/long reading may refer to a slightly different place on the ground, depending on which datum you use. The difference between the most common Australia focused datums is 6-7 seconds, which equates to around 200 m. This obviously represents a difficulty for someone trying to revisit a GPS identified locality, or even a lat/long including seconds read from a large scale map, particularly a 1:25 000 map. If you are keen to find out about datums: http://www.ga.gov.au/nmd/geodesy/datums/.
When a GPS is used, and a lat/long is provided to the nearest second, the datum is important. Most collectors don't record the datum yet, and may not really be aware of the significance. Labels from some other Australian herbaria have included a datum for many years, and CANB now wants to apply a datum to all new collections that have either a GPS recorded locality, or a lat/long that includes seconds read from map. There are a number of datums that can be selected on a GPS unit, and it is fairly easy to identify which datum is currently active.
As mentioned above, if calculating lat/long from large scale maps (1:25 000, 1:50 000, 1:100 000), the map datum should also be recorded for maximum lat/long utility. The datum used should be clearly stated in the map specifications. For those people that use grid references, the datum concept still influences the usefulness of the reading.
Here are the most likely datum candidates: World Geodetic System 1984 (WGS84), Geocentric Datum of Australia 1994 (GDA94), Map Grid of Australia 1994 (MGA94), Australian Geodetic Datum 1984 (AGD84), Australian Map Grid 1984 (AMG84). The first three letters are an acronym of the model, and the two numbers refer to a year of the 1900's that the datum was calculated (continental drift is minor but significant for some purposes, not ours.....).
I recently attended IPNI editors meetings held in Kew. For those who dont know "The International Plant Names Index (IPNI) is a database of the names and associated basic bibliographical details of all seed plants. Its goal is to eliminate the need for repeated reference to primary sources for basic bibliographic information about plant names. The data are freely available and are gradually being standardized and checked. IPNI will be a dynamic resource, depending on direct contributions by all members of the botanical community."
"IPNI is the product of a collaboration between The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, The Harvard University Herbaria, and the Australian National Herbarium."
The editors in attendance were Kirsten from APNI held at the Centre, Canberra; Gandhi from GCI (Gray Card Index held at Harvard University and from Kew: Rosemary Davies, Katherine Challis, Christine Barker. Others involved in most or part of the meetings were Eimear Nic Lughudha, Sally Hinchcliffe, Matt Taylor, Mark Jackson and Alan Paton. Sally and Matt are the IPNI/IT gurus and along with Greg Whitbread are the ones writing code, getting it do to the things the editors want and generally making it all happen.
Editorial priorities were discussed as were other initiatives, funding, software developments and the relaunch of the revamped IPNI.
At the moment data from each of these sites is uploaded to the IPNI website at regular intervals, but in the future it is hoped that the data will be live so any changes made to any of these databases will be seen instantly via IPNI.
We are in the process of working on an interface for all editors and that is what we talked about, looked at and tried in Kew. Standardising data entry is a big issue as we have all had various ways of entering data as well as actually entering different information. APNI is more inclusive while IK, due to legacy data, is usually the least. Eventually the view of IPNI will be the view with the most data. We will be working towards removing duplicate data, missing protologues, standardising authors, publication details, etc, and even including ferns. We also hope to allow researchers to contribute data in our quest for cleaner and more accurate data.
Apart from spending lunchtimes in Kew Gardens looking at every glasshouse, etc, I was able to spend a few days sightseeing in London itself. I managed to get blisters on my feet and nearly 5 rolls of film but saw quite a lot of the sights, including: Greenwich, Westminster Abbey, The Natural History Museum, Wakehurst Place and the Millenium Seed Bank, Kensington Palace, The Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Martin-in-the fields, Harrods, Liberty and Hamleys, just to mention a few! Of course, to see Kew Herbarium itself was amazing as it seems to be the pinnacle in herbaria. Seeing BM was also a highlight.
Overall it was a very interesting and rewarding time and I was pleased to be able to be given opportunity to go.
Anthony Whalen and Brendan Lepschi spent nine fruitful days in northern New South Wales and adjacent Queensland searching for taxa in the Logania albiflora (Loganiaceae) and Choretrum candollei (Santalaceae) complexes, as part of their respective research projects in those genera. Areas visited included Gibraltar Range National Park, Girraween National Park and the Stanthorpe district, where the entire population of the tiny hamlet of The Summit mobilised in an effort to help us locate our plants. As Anthony said: "You can have your fancy government databases, GPS units and 4WD's, but nothing beats local knowledge". Very true.
Other sites visited included Undercliffe Falls near Liston, and the Unumgar area - this was an unscheduled stop but it yielded the first collection of an undescribed species of Choretrum from this part of the state (NSW) since C.T. White collected it in the mid 1930's. Unusual considering the plant is 2m high and grows along the roadside! Drove east along the border to Mt Barney National Park, where we spent the hardest day of walking climbing Mt Barney, finding a dry rainforest population of Logania albiflora.
Turning back west we also visited some state forest areas in the Inglewood and Yelarbon districts in southern Queensland, the black soil plains around Croppa Creek and Crooble where we managed to get completely lost, and an interesting woodland remnant on sandstone at Warialda. Climbed a small peak near Ashford known as "the Barbs" in search of the narrow leaved, western form of Logania albiflora, which we found in abundance (4 plants only) amongst exposed rocky outcrops. Further south, we visited Goonoowigal NR near Inverell and the abandoned Howell townsite, then travelling south-west to Coonabarabran. Spent the next day walking around the Warrumbungle Ranges, successfully finding the same form of Logania albiflora that was present at the Barbs, in full flower. A bushwalker who had a nagging suspicion he had seen an Exocarpos in amongst millions of Callitris couldnt believe his luck when he stumbled across Australia leading authority in Santalaceae pressing plants in the Warrumbungles car park, who confirmed his hunch. No doubt he headed off to town that afternoon to buy a lottery ticket!
From here we went south to Gilgandra, for an incredibly easy collection of Choretrum candollei literally metres from our accomodation (makes you wonder why it has only been collected once at this site, and 40 years ago at that), and a frustrating attempt at relocating a population of Logania albiflora in the Goonoo State Forest south-west of Mendooran. All we managed to find was a solitary plant about 10cm high, despite considerable searching - this locality is interesting as it was only discovered by processing material of the Biddiscombe collection, which had laid unprocessed in the link backlog for nearly 50 years. And who said backlog collections were unimportant....
Overall, we had a very successful trip, and we managed to find our plants at nearly all the sites we visited, resulting in a number of good herbarium collections, as well as material for DNA extraction. Good numbers of general herbarium collections were also made, increasing our holdings from these poorly represented parts of New South Wales and Queensland. Anthony also got to practice his digital camera skills on plants that are not known to have photogenic qualities.
[Brendan Lepschi & Anthony Whalen]
Professor, Department of Integrative Biology
Director, University and Jepson Herbaria
Associate Director, California Biodiversity Center
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY
Friday 10 October at 10.30am
in the MULT
Black Mountain Canberra
"Biodiversity isn't species: the tree of life, rank-free phylogenetic classification, and the future of bioinformatics & conservation"
Friday 10 October at 12.30am
in the Herbarium Tea Room
Black Mountain Canberra
"Ecology and evolution of desiccation tolerance and water relationships in bryophytes, with emphasis on Tortula" (Includes a demonstration of MossCam)
Discovering plants through art
11 19 October 2003 10am 4 pm
An exhibition of botanical paintings from artists of the ACT and NSW
Clunies Ross Street, Black Mountain
The Centre is approaching the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Agreement that brought the CPBR into existence.
To celebrate our first 10 years we are organising a dinner for staff, students and volunteers (and their partners) who have worked at the CPBR over that ten year period.
Its early planning at this stage, but for those who want a date for your diary:
DATE: Friday 21 November 2003
PLACE: Hudson's Cafe, ANBG
TIME: 7pm for 7.30pm
We are still working on the details, including cost, so there will be further emails to let you know exactly what's happening.
In the meantime, if you want to discuss aspects of the dinner, talk to the planning group:
Linda Broadhurst (Building 1)
Sophie Bickford (Herbarium Building)
Chris Cargill (ANBG site)
Tracking down some of the past staff will be difficult, so if you have a contact/email for a past staff member can you send me the details.
The next Program U/Centre formal meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 12 November in the ANH Tearoom at 10.15 am.
The next Executive Committee meeting is scheduled for 29 October 2003.