Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research
2005 represents the thirteenth year that the Student Botanical Intern Program has been run. A total of 25 applications were received for the Program, with 19 placements offered, all were accepted. All 19 Interns successfully completed the Program in 2005.
Eleven Australian universities or colleges were represented along with one graduate from an American institution. There was only one Australian National University student and two CIT students, representing unusually low numbers of Canberra participants this year. The general trend of low numbers from Sydney was somewhat reversed this year, with three students participating, all from the University of Technology, Sydney. A student from the Charles Darwin University also took part, providing the Program with its first Northern Territorian.
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 Intern's learning experience.
The number of applicants received by the closing date was double on the previous year, resulting in the need to select applicants on merit. The application numbers fluctuate wildly from year to year, and it is difficult to determine what the reasons for this might be. Direct email contact with relevant academics has helped the Program build a strong presence in universities and colleges across the country. This presence and electronic promotion on websites such as EnviroJobs , needs to be strengthened in years to come.
Output achieved by Interns during 2005 is roughly equal to 1.6 year's work (of an entry-level TO), based on a 200-day working year. This however, does not take account of the CPBR and ANBG staff, many of which put in long hours, supervising and lecturing. This comparatively is an increase on previous year's productivity (1.4 years). This increase is largely attributable to the dropping of some non-core lectures from previous years. This was in response to the 2004 shortening of the Program from eight weeks to seven; forced on us to better fit in with earlier University starting dates. Last year's productivity was disappointing and required a program reassessment. The “training - work balance” in 2005 was much more in line with the productivity of earlier years.
The major curatorial effort of 2005 involved processing herbarium specimens that were part of the Atherton Herbarium (QRS) duplicate backlog collection. Good progress was made with these collections; 3.5 (out of 6) pallet loads being sorted, database-updated and boxed ready for distribution to 24 international institutions who have expertise in tropical floras. Approximately 2/3 of the time interns spent working in teams related to the QRS duplicates project. This processing effort, using up to six workstations around the herbaria, represents more than half of the QRS backlog. The 2006 Intern Program should complete the full processing of this material.
Another heritage collection that interns were involved in was the processing of the Gray collections. Max Gray collected most of these specimens around Armidale in the 1950s and 1960s. Interns sorted the specimens in preparation for field book data entry, processing approximately half of the collections. Other curatorial work included mounting and incorporation of vascular and non-vascular specimens, identification of specimens, assistance with loans and exchange, data entry, determining specimen geocodes and general lab and herbarium tasks.
Along with curation work, intern provided research assistance to a number of the CPBR research scientists. The biggest project saw all interns over several days assist with the Remnant Population project, removing and cleaning a large number of seedlings needed for weighing. The nineteen interns were able to clean and weigh the material quickly, providing much needed labour support. Assistance was also provided to research groups such as orchids, daisies, cryptogams and several plant propagation projects. The developing “orchid key” interactive product was also tested by most interns who made comment on its accuracy and usability. For full details of the 2005 work outputs s ee Attachment A.
Fieldwork in 2005 followed the well-established format of previous years. The first trip was a one-day drive with Honorary Forestry Fellow Ian Brooker, who led the interns through sites around Queanbeyan, Captains Flat and Tallaganda State Forest, introducing them to many of the local eucalypt species.
The four-day residential field trip to Jervis Bay this year helped provide botanical support to an ongoing ANU CRES faunal research project. Drs Chris Macgregor (ANU) and Malcolm Gill (CPBR) lead the interns in a post fire assessment of the woodland and heath communities found in a number of the ANU animal field plots. Species showing varying degrees of response to fire were collected, identified and documented. These were then compared to the diversity and abundance of similar communities found in non-burnt sites. The students also enjoyed a bush tucker tour led by Wreck Bay local Barry Moore around the Booderee Botanic Gardens.
The 2005 Program attracted media attention at the end of the course with an interview of two graduates which resulted in a Canberra Times article . There was also a small article written in the Canberra Chronicle . The Intern Program featured in one of the January CSIRO Yellow Sheet articles, helping provide CSIRO PI staff with greater awareness of the interns and the herbarium collection.
Overall, the 2005 Interns Program was very successful. Work output was good; a wide range of curatorial and research tasks were provided with much needed intern labour. The general bulk processing of herbarium specimens still makes up the core component of intern work each year, work that is sorely needed to keep the collection up to date.
All Interns were also provided with Evaluation Forms for the Program. Comments from these forms are currently being reviewed to help make improvements to the 2006 Program. The verbal feedback on the 2005 Program by graduates has been overwhelmingly positive.
No major difficulties were encountered during the running of the 2005 Program, though a few issues need to be thought about for next year:
IT support took a turn for the worse in 2005, though the in-house presence of Kim Navin helped overcome most of the major problems that were encountered. Due to CSIRO IT restructuring, there was very little support available to respond to setting up new computers, printer connection problems and such like. One password incident saw the entire group of interns shut out of the CSIRO network for three critical days. As much of the intern work in the next few year will require heavy computer use, we will require some serious consideration of the future IT support from both CSIRO and DEH.
The perennial problem of accommodation for interstate participants remains a major issue. Most students avoided the high priced ANU colleges this year, finding short-term share accommodation off campus. A number of staff also generously billeted rooms to students, an option that could possibly be formalised early next year. Accommodation costs is the single biggest issue mentioned by students first starting the Program.
Overall costs come out at $5709 to run the 2005 Interns Program, slightly more expensive than 2004 (at $5666). As with previous years most of this cost was generated by the Jervis Bay fieldtrip, and associated vehicle hire and fuel costs.
The success of the 2005 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 CPBR and ANBG staff, especially those at the Herbarium, for their tolerance, enthusiasm and support during the course of the Program.
Specimen mounting - 20 boxes (c. 900 specimens) including a combination of backlog from AVH families such as Boraginaceae, Stackhousiaceae, Zingiberaceae, Campanulaceae and Epacridaceae. Orchidaceae and other monocots were also mounted along with MEL and PERTH exchange.
General herbarium specimen incorporation - 104 boxes (c. 4160 specimens) of mixed families, including Orchidaceae, Lamiaceae, Asteraceae, Epacridaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Rutaceae.
3.5 pallets (c. 3400 collections, c. 13600 duplicate specimens) of Atherton Herbarium (QRS) duplicates fully processed to institution boxes awaiting packaging by Loans staff. QRS database was updated with duplicate destination information. Database extracts were added to each box on floppy disks to help new institutions to database collections.
Max Gray collections 17 out of 34 boxes sorted, flimsied, occasionally unmounted from old sheets, collection localities interpreted and geocodes allocated, specimens prepared for identification, databasing and mounting. Interns completed this stage of the project; specimens will be remounted at a later date.
Plant identification - checking names on 3 boxes of Andrew Lyne herbarium specimens. Also identified remaining specimens collected but unprocessed on Jervis Bay field trip (one plant press)
Name checks for potential AVH families (listing plant names on specimens from the collection that weren't already in the Plant Name Table - Stackhousiaceae, Haemodoraceae, Epacridaceae, Pittosporaceae, Rhizophoraceae, Scrophulariaceae, Campanulaceae.
Change over of herbarium from Verbenaceae s.lat. to Verbenaceae s.str. This required the removal of 2/3 of the Verbenaceae specimens, relabelling them as Lamiaceae and then interleaving the specimen folders into Lamiaceae.
Malvaceae herbarium curation - determinavit slips were added to c. 40 boxes of Melaleuca and Hibiscus specimens.
Processed the entire backlog of lists by P. Sollman on the moss family Pottiaceae. These lists included determinations, confirmations and reviews. Assistance was provided in This involved cutting up list copies, retrieving the listed specimens, attaching the determination slips and notes in packets along with packet annotation. Over 600 specimens were processed.
Retrieved specimens and added citation slips for 100 liverworts and lichens plus checked a further 50 lichens and mosses to ensure the citations had been added.
Proof read 250 draft labels for cryptogam specimens.
Identified a small number of mosses and liverworts.
Remnant Population project – washed c.100 Swainsona sericea seedling roots and weighed c. 300 samples.
Jervis Bay Fire ecology project – surveyed ten field plots (five burnt, five unburnt). Work involved the collection of plant samples, pressing, assessing local abundance and identification. Data will be used to help document vegetation at ANU permanent field sites and contribute to knowledge of vegetation's response to fire.
Interactive Orchid key testing – using fresh specimens, the developing key was tested to assess its accuracy and usability. Notes interns made have prompted ca. 50 changes to coding in the key. The exercise also highlighted the characters frequently used. This will help us when considering the final characters and perhaps the order of characters in the key as the most frequently used characters where those at the top of the list.
Portulacaceae project – repotted Calandrinia and Portulaca seedlings in order to have a range of species and material available for a new molecular systematics analysis which is anticipated to begin mid year. Also helped with general stock take of propagation material, recording information into spreadsheets.
Mangrove pollen extraction – flowers with pollen were extracted from 20 specimens of various mangrove species. Samples were bagged, tagged and database records extracted for this research project.
Setup up two new hydroponic tanks for growing Randy Bayer citrus plants. Plants were moved from older, overcrowded tanks into the new ones.
Literature search was conducted on the flowering times of Malagasy species of Gnaphalieae. Information was placed into a database to help with planning future field trips to Madagascar.