Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research
2006 represented the fourteenth year that the Student’s Volunteer Botanical Intern Program (SVBIP) has been run. A total of 24 applications were received for the Program, with 18 placements offered and 16 accepted. All 16 Interns successfully completed the Program in 2006.
Ten Australian universities or colleges were represented along with one graduate from an English institution. In addition, one member of Parks Australia South (DEH) also completed the program. There were only two Australian National University students, representing low numbers of Canberra participants again. Only one participant from Sydney (from the University of Technology) completed the program. However, there was strong interest from Queensland, with five students from three institutions participating.
A number 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 and parks management. Overall it was a good mix of backgrounds and interests that no doubt added to the Intern’s learning experience. Interestingly, a large number of this year’s intake were also studying towards or had completed degrees in music.
The number of applicants received by the closing date was similar to that of the previous year, resulting in the need to select applicants on merit. The application numbers fluctuate 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. Comments from this year’s intake suggest that word-of-mouth from previous participants in the program also plays an important role in encouraging applications.
Output achieved by Interns during 2006 was roughly equal to 1.3 year’s work (of an entry-level TO), based on a 200-day working year. However, this does not take account of the CPBR and ANBG staff, many of whom put in long hours, supervising and lecturing. This is a reduction on the average productivity of 1.7 year’s for 1999-2003 (largely attributable to the shortening of the Program from eight weeks to seven due to earlier University starting dates) and also a reduction on last year’s figure of 1.6. However, given that three fewer interns took part in the program than the previous year (16 this year, 19 in 2005) this equates to roughly the same output per intern, as to be expected with roughly the same amount of time allocated to curatorial tasks and a similar focus on the major task of processing the QRS duplicates.
The major curatorial effort of 2006 involved processing herbarium specimens that were part of the Atherton Herbarium (QRS) duplicate backlog collection. Excellent progress was made with this task being completed by the 2006 interns, using up to six workstations around the herbarium at any one time. 2.5 pallet loads (c. 2470 collections) were sorted, database-updated and boxed ready for distribution to 24 international institutions that have expertise in tropical floras. With the number of duplicates for each collection ranging from 1 to 24 a total of c. 31, 616 have been processed since 2003.
Another heritage collection that interns were involved in was the processing of the CSIRO Wildlife reference collections. These specimens had been laboriously mounted previously using cellophane and staples. Given the extremely dull nature of this task the interns were extremely focussed and made excellent progress through these collections. c. 1449 specimens were unmounted, with 551 sent as duplicates to MU and 898 specimens kept as unicates at CANB. 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 herbarium tasks.
Along with curation work, interns provided research assistance to a number of the CPBR research scientists. Assistance was again provided to research groups such as orchids, with further orchid key testing, and cryptogams. Interns also provided valuable assistance to the Acacia-Rhizobia project team.
For full details of the 2006 work outputs see Attachment A.
Fieldwork in 2006 followed the well-established format of previous years. The first trip was a one-day drive with Andrew Slee, 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 was made somewhat more difficult this year due to steady rain curtailing the time available for field collecting. However, interns once again accompanied HRF Malcolm Gill in his assessment of the vegetation’s response to fire in a number of woodland and heath communities 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 and a wet, but extremely informative, tour of Bitou Bush control sites with Booderee National Park staff.
The Intern Program featured in one of the February CSIRO Yellow Sheet articles, helping provide CSIRO PI staff with greater awareness of the interns and the herbarium collection. A modified version of this article also appeared in the March DNP (Director of National Park) News, distributed to Parks Australia staff across the country.
Overall, the 2006 Intern Program was very successful. Work output was good, with interns demonstrating consistent focus to all their task for the duration of the internship. A wide range of curatorial and research tasks were supplemented 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 being used to fine tune planning for the 2007 Program.
The verbal and written feedback on the 2006 Program by graduates has been overwhelmingly positive.
No major difficulties were encountered during the running of the 2006 Program.
IT was relatively trouble free this year. Two new temporary computers requested fro intern use were delivered in plenty of time and set up with most of the software required. A couple of small glitches early on were attended to promptly, resulting in minimal disruption. The only minor issue to look into for next year is the amount of space available on the network for the dedicated Intern folder. This year this folder filled up on a number of occasions even though there did not appear to be any large files.
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. Accommodation costs are the single biggest issue mentioned by students first starting the Program. Staff members will again be approached for the 2007 Internship in order to alleviate the potential impact of the prohibitively high rents asked by the ANU colleges and the Canberra rental market in general.
Overall costs come out at $5798 to run the 2006 Intern Program, slightly more expensive than 2005 (at $5709). 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 2006 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. Thanks are also due to all CPBR and ANBG staff, especially those at the Herbarium, for their tolerance and enthusiasm during the course of the Program. I would particularly like to thank all those who provided invaluable support for the Internship Coordinator.
Specimen mounting - c. 400 specimens including a combination of Orchidaceae, Cyperaceae, Menyanthaceae, Oleaceae, miscellaneous families and B. Waterhouse (NAQS) donations.
General herbarium specimen incorporation - 36 boxes (c. 1400 specimens) of mixed families, including Orchidaceae.
2.5 pallets (c. 2470 collections) 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.
CSIRO Wildlife and Ecology reference collection demounting, staple and cellophane removal: 161 folders processed c. 1449 specimens in total. 551 sent as duplicates to MU, 898 kept as unicates at CANB.
M. Gray collections backlog: 40 boxes of specimens sorted for group curators to check.
Plant identification - checking names on 2 boxes of Andrew Lyne herbarium specimens.
Melaleuca curation - determinavit slips were added to c. 30 boxes of Melaleuca specimens.
Australian backlog of the Actinidiaceae extracted from the collection.
Data entry of 789 Spergularia records and 577 Pterostylis records for
7 boxes of J. Grace Glycine collections processed to recombine the original specimens with the duplicates to enable correction and updating of specimen data.
Support provided to Loans and Exchange area.
Collection searches conducted for A. Floyd duplicates (c. 80 specimens) and National Reference Set collections (c. 120 specimens).
1 box of Dunlop and Byrnes collections found, labelled and flimsies updated.
Rare book on loan to the CPBR copied for retention in the ANH library.
c. 30 boxes of ferns incorporated. Identification of many checked prior to incorporation.
Remounting of 736 SEM photos for Chris: 736
Made 64 light microscope slides of Hornwort spores
Identification of a small number of bryophytes
Labelled 71 Kodachrome colour slides of bryophytes
Lab assistance provided to the Acacia – Rhizobia research group
Interactive Orchid key testing – using fresh specimens, the nearly completed key was tested to assess its accuracy and usability.