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
1. Staffing News
New challenges for botanist
In late May Dr Rosemary Purdie, an Honorary Research Associate at the Centre, was appointed the ACT's Commissioner for the Environment. She replaces Dr Joe Baker, the foundation Commissioner who had held the position for 10 years. It's a part time job (8 days a month) supported by a small secretariat (two full time people plus 1-2 consultants or contract staff appointed on a needs basis).
The Commissioner provides independent advice to the ACT Minister for the Environment, and has two main functions that are essentially aimed at improving the way the Territory's environment is managed and increasing government accountability for environmental management.
The first function is to carry out investigations about the management of the ACT's environment. These investigations may be in response to complaints made by community members, follow a direction from the Minister or be instigated by the Commissioner. Reports of Ministerial-directed or Commissioner-initiated inquiries must be tabled in the Legislative Assembly.
The second function is to prepare an ACT State of the Environment (SoE) report once every 3-4 years. Under the Commissioner for the Environment Act 1993, the 'environment' includes biophysical aspects (such as air, land and water), biological aspects (including species, ecosystems, people and communities), human made or modified structures and areas, the interactions and interdependencies of all these aspects, and the social, aesthetic, cultural and economic conditions that affect, or are affected by, all the above.
Each ACT SoE report must be tabled in the Legislative Assembly. Within 6 months of receiving the report, the Minister must provide to the Assembly a formal statement of the government's response to the report and any recommendations it contains (or say why the government is not going to prepare such a statement). Agency progress in implementing the government 's response to SoE recommendations is then tracked in the Commissioner's Annual Reports.
With the agreement and cooperation of surrounding local governments, the Commission Office now also prepares an Australian Capital Region SoE report. This covers an area extending from the Victorian/New South Wales border east of the Great Dividng Range, to north of Bateman's Bay, across to the Crookwell–Boorowa–Young area in the north, and south to Vic/NSW border near Tumbarumba. Much of the Commission Office's current work is focused on preparing the 2004 regional SoE report.
Further information about the Office of the Commissioner for the Environment and electronic copy of the ACT SoE report, released earlier this year, can be found on the Commissioner's website www.environmentcommissioner.act.gov.au/.
Hello CPBR staff
My name is Carolyn Parsons. I have taken up the position of Manager Public Programs and Marketing at the ANBG. I believe I am only the third person to do this job under its various names. So following Murray Fagg and Rod Harvey could be a hard act to follow…
I started my work life as a teacher in Tasmania, but after a few years, I strapped on my backpack and went overseas.
On my return I decided I would like to see what life was like outside a school and started working in the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Hobart as a management trainee in industrial relations. From there I went to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in 1993 for a three-month training placement, but managed to stay for seven years.
The last few years I have been wandering the country doing various communications and public programs positions. This included stints at Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and most recently at Kosciuszko National Park. I literally had a baptism of fire in Jindabyne, starting on 13 January 2003.
This is my third ‘trip’ to Canberra. I was here for a few months in 1997 doing an internship at the National Gallery of Australia in the public programs and education session. During 2002 I worked at ScreenSound Australia and now, after living in an amazing spot inside Kosciuszko National Park – I have returned.
I have enjoyed my first weeks at the Gardens – everyone has been very welcoming. There seems to be many passionate people here and it is obvious that a huge amount of great work has gone into public programs and education – as well as many other areas.
In my spare time I love going to the bush, mountains and the beach – anywhere in the world. Being a Tasmanian I still squirm when people say that Canberra is so close to the beach!
And yes, it is colder here on a winter morning than in Hobart!
I look forward to meeting you all soon.
Mayo Prize Winner
David Field of Program U, while attending the recent Genetics Society of Australia (GSA) annual conference, obviously wowed the audience with his presentation – they awarded him the Mayo Prize. The prize is given for the best PhD talk made during the conference and David won with his presentation, ‘Swamping the Swamp Gum: Habitat fragmentation and disturbance promotes hybridisation in Eucalyptus aggregata’. The Prize honours the contribution to GSA and to Australian genetics by Drs Jean and George Mayo. Congratulations are definitely in order!
Australian Museum Eureka Prize Awards
David Jones, Research Scientist in the Centre, has been announced as a finalist in the Botanic Gardens Trust Eureka Prize for Biodiversity Research, a category of the 2004 Australian Museum Eureka Prizes. David and his wife, Barbara, together with Judy West and Mark Clements will attend the Award Dinner on Tuesday 10 August at the Hordern Pavilion in Sydney where prize winners will be announced. The Centre congratulates David on his achievement thus far.
An overview of David’s nomination can be viewed at
2. Australian National Herbarium
Ms Laura Pleasants, Research Assistant to Dr Peter Crane, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, UK, is visiting the Herbarium from 3-19 August. Laura plans to commence a PhD next year and is interested in gathering experience in traditional herbarium-based taxonomy and molecular phylogenetics. Laura is located in Room 2.37.
Laura and Judy looking at a Dodonaea procumbens
Professor Loren Rieseberg from the Indiana University, Bloomington will visit the CPBR and Program U as a visiting scientist for 12 months from 1 August 2004 and will be located in the Herbarium Room 3.6. Professor Rieseberg is a highly respected plant evolutionary biologist with an outstanding research record.
Mr Troy Wood, postdoctoral fellow and research assistant with Professor Rieseberg will provide research support for the Professor and contribute to the graduate student activities in Program U also for a 12 month period.
Dr Peter Raven, Director of Missouri Botanic Gardens, is visiting Australia to open the International Entomology Congress in Brisbane and will be presenting a series of public lectures during his stay. His itinerary includes visiting Canberra on 23 August where he will participate in a series of round table discussions with DEH and DEST officials. Detailed itinerary is yet to be finalized.
3. Research Groups
Australian Network for Plant Conservation
The ecological science underpinning rehabilitation of degraded natural areas.
Senior Project Manager (Catchment Rehabilitation)
National Parks and Wildlife Service
Department of Environment and Conservation
Time: 12.30pm (Lunch available from 12.15pm)
Date: Tuesday 17 August 2004
Venue: Theatrette, Australian National Botanic Gardens
Cost: Nil for members of the EIANZ and ANPC, $5 for non-members (includes light lunch)
Parking charges apply at the Gardens.
Extensive degradation from external influences has occurred in many natural ecosystems in conservation reserves and national parks and has resulted in a mosaic of vegetation communities and ecosystem states often very different from that of the natural edaphic and climatic climax states. Where disturbance and degradation of the ecosystem has not been too severe, the ecosystems retain a resilience and capacity to slowly return to the original climax state when the disturbance factors are removed. However, if the disturbance is severe and the disturbance factors continue, the ecosystems will further decline, leading to the establishment of a stable state very different to that of the pre-disturbance natural ecosystem state.
Rehabilitation and restoration is now very much a part of protected area management but the application of sound ecological science in the planning and implementation of ecosystem rehabilitation is essential if long-term stability and functionality are to be achieved.
In this address the rehabilitation of eroded alpine and subalpine soils and the restoration of stable functional vegetation communities in the Alps National Parks in New South Wales are reviewed and an ecological model to define the various ecosystem states for the alpine and subalpine ecosystems is outlined.
For further information, contact: Lachlan Wilkinson, 6274 2440
4. Friends and Colleagues moving on
Ken Hill is Retiring
Some news of our colleagues in Sydney: following a period of deteriorating health, veteran botanist Ken Kill has made a difficult decision to ease up on formal employment and retire early. Ken's departure is going to be a big loss for the herbarium and the Gardens in many and diverse aspects of their operations. The hole Ken will be leaving is going to be very difficult
for any one person to fill.
Ken will be well known to us all for his work of the systematics and generic division of the eucalypts, the taxonomy and systematics of the Cycads, including the world famous 'Cycad pages'http://plantnet.rbgsyd.gov.au/PlantNet/cycad/ http://plantnet.rbgsyd.gov.au/PlantNet/cycad/), and for placing and describing the Wollemi Pine, Wollemia nobilis. Less known to any but a few of us are his exceptional skills in areas of computer programming, database application development and geographic information systems.
Ken will be maintaining an honorary association with the NSW herbarium, and will keep his office, computer and telephone, etc., at least in the medium term, coming in about 2 days a week to work on projects of interest. In particular he wants to advance the NSW Flora Online as well as write up some taxonomy.
Greg and I am personally going to miss the input and contribution Ken makes to HISCOM and to the design and operation of the Australia's Virtual Herbarium and his innovation, stimulation and general discussion on botanical databases and bioinformatics matters over the years.
On behalf of the AVH team here in Canberra, and his HISCOM colleagues, I and the staff of the Australian National Herbarium wish Ken all the best for the future with hopes for a long, rewarding and enjoyable retirement.
Hopefully Ken will be able to drop in on CANB from time to time in pursuit of his varied botanical interests.
Geoff Tracey (1930 – 2004)
Geoff Tracey passed away at his home on the Atherton Tablelands Friday 30th July. Many of you will not have met Geoff or be aware of his contributions to the knowledge of our tropical rainforests. He was a CSIRO employee from 1949 to 1991 and a frequent visitor to our Atherton labs since that time. Geoff had a profound impact on our understanding of tropical rainforest ecology and was a major force in CSIRO's activity in northern Australia for over half of the 20th Century.
Geoff worked for many years (1949-1980) with Dr. Len Webb in the Rainforest Ecology Unit of CSIRO Plant Industry. Geoff’s earlier work had a strong focus on collection of plant samples for analyses for the Australian Phytochemical Survey. From the mid 1960s, his work with Len Webb focussed on Rainforest Ecology. During this period, Geoff had numerous joint publications on this topic, in particular with Bill Williams (of CSIRO Tropical Pastures), a specialist in numerical analysis techniques. Geoff’s outstanding ability to identify rainforest plants in the field, particularly seedlings, made this research possible. During the 1970s, the work of Len Webb and Geoff Tracey, provided the scientific basis for a number of conservation campaigns across Queensland. In 1975, the 15 North Queensland vegetation maps by Geoff and Len were published by CSIRO.
Geoff’s greatest contribution to Rainforest Ecology and Conservation, was his description of the North Queensland Rainforests in his 1982 book "The Vegetation of the Humid Tropical Region of North Queensland", published by CSIRO. This publication remains the standard reference for vegetation descriptions in North Queensland. After Len Webb's retirement in 1980, Geoff transferred to CSIRO Atherton and continued to work on the ecology of North Queensland's rainforests until his retirement from CSIRO in 1991. Before his retirement, Geoff was a member of the CSIRO team of consultants who assisted in making recommendation for the boundaries of the World Heritage Listing of the North Queensland Wet Tropics rainforests. In his final year with CSIRO, he was seconded to the federal Department of the Environment where his extensive and detailed knowledge of the North Queensland rainforests was invaluable.
In 1989, Geoff was instrumental in setting up the shire-based environmental rehabilitation tree planting scheme to employ and re-train timber workers who lost their jobs following World Heritage Listing of North Queensland rainforests in 1988. Geoff’s earlier interest in re-establishing rainforest by small plantings, as at the Long Pocket Laboratories in Brisbane in the 1970s, was followed by his role as the scientific coordinator of a scheme known as the Wet Tropics Tree Planting Scheme. He was adviser to the N.Q. Joint Board (now N.Q. Afforestation) comprising shire chairmen from the twelve local government authorities covering N.Q. Wet Tropics Region, who took over the Scheme in the mid 1990s. Geoff retained a personal interest in and provided advice to the Scheme.
Some of you will be aware that Geoff had been actively lobbying and working on a project "The Australian National Tropical Botanical Gardens at Mareeba Far North Queensland" since 1987.
If anyone feels they would like to celebrate Geoff's life they are invited to make a donation to the Australian Bush Heritage Fund
phone 03 6223 2670 or toll free 1800 677 101
The next meeting of the Executive Committee is scheduled for 1 September 2004.