Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research
2003 represents the tenth year that the Student Botanical Intern Program has been run. A total of 20 applications were received for the Program, with 19 placements offered and 18 accepted. All 18 Interns successfully completed the Program in 2003. The number of applications received this year was comparable to numbers in recent years.
2003 Interns came from:
Australian National University (2)
University of Canberra (1)
University of Queensland (1)
Monash University (3)
University of Melbourne - Burnley College (1)
CIT, Canberra (1)
Charles Sturt University (2)
Sydney University (1)
University of Wollongong (1)
Flinders University (1)
Lambton College, Canada (1)
University of Melbourne (1)
University of Tasmania (1)
University of Queensland (1)
Eleven Australian universities were represented along with graduates from a number of overseas institutions. There were three Monash University and one Melbourne Uni students took part in the Internship this year reflecting the strength in botanical training in currently found in Melbourne. The trend of low numbers from Sydney continues, with only one student taking part in the program. Students from Germany, Hong Kong and Canada also helped to provide an international flavor to the Program.
Many of our participants had completed, or were in the process of completing, degrees in horticulture. Other students were working towards degrees in environmental science, botany or geography. Overall it was a good mix of backgrounds and interests that no doubt added to the Interns learning experience.
Output achieved by Interns during 2003 is roughly equal to 2 years work (of an entry-level TO), based on a 200-day working year. However, when you deduct the training input of CPBR and ANBG staff, it works out to be 1.7 years work. This relates to the work out put achieved in previous years (the average over 1999-2002 being 1.7 years).
The major push to process herbarium specimens identified as priority groups for the AVH project continued this year. 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. A major component of the curation in 2003 centred around the reshuffling of the existing Myrtaceae collection and the incorporation of 150 boxes of new additions. The unmounting of half of the donated Deniliquin Rangeland Herbarium for appropriate archival remounting was a major focus of the Intern curatorial labour. Processing of the QRS herbariums duplicate backlog was another large task that was started with the help of this years Interns.
The January Canberra bushfires disrupted the planned field program on one hand but on the other opened up new opportunities. The Brindabella eucalypt trip had to be postponed and then a new route selected as the traditional route was eventually burnt out. The four-day residential field trip to Jervis Bay went ahead and in many ways was a good release for staff and Interns who had just faced Canberras worst ever fires. A mock ecological survey and a new GPS specimen tracking exercise were the main features of Intern training at Jervis Bay. Once the fires had stopped it opened up the opportunity for forest fire analysis under the direction of Malcolm Gill. This day trip was an exercise in forensic data recording that the Interns found of particular interest.
Assistance was provided to various research groups such as cryptogams, orchids, Polygalaceae, data from the fire field trip and for a bush regeneration trial. Coding for the developing "pea key" interactive product was also continued with the 2003 program. See Attachment A for detailed work outputs.
The 2003 Program attracted perhaps the most media attention since Interns assisted with the Muehlenbeckia tuggeranong discovery in 1997. The pine forest fire research was a story that captured the medias attention with five Interns having the opportunity to be interviewed on WIN News (TV), ABC local radio and the Canberra Times. There is also mention of Intern involvement in the post fire research in an upcoming article in the CSIROs co:research newsletter. The Intern Program and its host institutions gained valuable recognition with the media exposure that came out of this fire research.
Overall, the 2003 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 despite a few comments about the curatorial work being at times tedious, the overall feedback has been very positive.
No major difficulties were encountered during the running of the 2003 Program, though a few issues need to be thought about for next year:
IT support was handled once again by Plant Industry IT. While initial set up of six PCs was well done, ongoing support of these computers when problems arose was poor. Email was once again set up on the EA network and linked to Intern personal web accessible accounts in order for them to be to readable on the CSIRO network. This email access seemed to work better in 2003 than it did last year, though it is still not an ideal configuration.
A few institutions (eg. Uni of Canberra, Charles Sturt Uni) resumed teaching one week earlier than the Internship finished, resulting in one student having to finish the program early and another missing several sessions.
The perennial problem of accommodation for interstate participants remains a major issue. A large number of students stayed in ANU colleges for ease of access to the Herbarium. Unfortunately none of the colleges were offering accommodation for the full duration of the program. Interns in this situation had to find accommodation and move for the final two weeks of the program. The time and cost involved in finding a place to stay continues to be one of the bigger problems for Interns. Attempts will be made this year to find outside funding to help subsidise accommodation, including a bid for the Allen Strom Eureka Prize.
Overall costs come out at $5,450 to run the 2003 Interns Program, slightly less expensive than 2002 (at $5,771). The reduced cost relates to two of the three field trips being closer to Canberra than they were in previous years. As with 2002, most of this cost was generated by the residential fieldtrip, and associated vehicle hire and fuel costs.
The success of the 2003 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. I am 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.