Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research
2007 represented the fifteenth year that the Student’s Volunteer Botanical Intern Program (SVBIP) has been run. A total of 11 applications were received for the Program, with 11 placements offered and 10 accepted. All 10 Interns successfully completed the Program in 2007.
Eight Australian universities were represented with one intern being an exchange student from South Korea. There were only two Australian National University students, representing a low number of Canberra participants again. Only one participant from Sydney (from the University of New South Wales) completed the program. In contrast to last year, when three Queensland institutions were represented, no Queensland students attended the program this year. Nor were there any horticultural students this year.
Students were working towards or had completed degrees in botany, environmental science and marine science. One intern is at the beginning of her Masters in Plant Systematics. For the first year, we also had two students studying Natural History Illustration. Overall it was a good mix of backgrounds and interests that clearly added to the Intern’s learning experience.
The number of applicants received by the closing date was dramatically reduced compared to previous years and the closing date for applications had to be extended. 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. Advertising on EnviroJobs was the means for one intern to hear about the program this year so advertising earlier via this venue may help raise the profile of the program. Comments from this year’s intake and academics with students who have previously completed the program suggest that word-of-mouth from previous participants in the program also plays an important role in encouraging applications.
Output achieved by Interns during 2007 was roughly equal to just under 86% of a 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 1.3. However, given that a much reduced number interns took part in the program than in previous years (10 this year, 16 in 2006, 19 in 2005) this equates to a greater output per intern with slightly more time allocated to curatorial tasks.
Once again the interns were involved in the processing of the CSIRO Wildlife heritage 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. 400 specimens were unmounted, with 125 sent as duplicates to MU. Other curatorial work included mounting and incorporation of vascular and non-vascular specimens, identification of specimens, allocation of labels to specimens ready for mounting, assistance with loans and exchange, assistance with curation of artworks in the ANBG library 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 a particular focus on labelling and incorporation of spirit material, and cryptogams. Interns also provided valuable assistance to two PhD students this year.
For full details of the 2007 work outputs s ee Attachment A.
Fieldwork in 2007 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 was held again at Jervis Bay. Interns once again surveyed a number of woodland and heath communities in Booderee National Park to assess the vegetation’s response to fire. 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, a tour of Bitou Bush control sites and a discussion of park and reserve management issues with members of the Booderee National Park staff.
The Intern Program featured in one of the February CSIRO Yellow Sheet articles and in the CSIRO-wide Monday Mail, helping provide CSIRO staff with greater awareness of the interns and the herbarium collection.
Overall, the 2007 Intern Program was very successful. Work output was good, with interns demonstrating consistent focus to all their tasks 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 2008 Program.
The verbal and written feedback on the 2007 Program by graduates has been overwhelmingly positive.
No major difficulties were encountered during the running of the 2007 Program.
IT issues once again created some minor problems this year. Two new temporary computers requested for intern use were not delivered until after the start of the program despite requests that they should be set up before Christmas. However, once installed they worked well and no further problems were encountered. The availability of laptops to use interactive keys on the Jervis Bay field tip was somewhat problematic this year. Some of the CPBR laptops no longer function and difficulties were encountered with using the ANBG laptop due to log in issues. This is an area which needs looking in for next year.
The perennial problem of accommodation for interstate participants remains a major issue. All students avoided the high priced ANU colleges this year, finding short-term share accommodation off campus. A member of ANBG staff generously provided rooms for three of the students and canvassing the Department of the Environment and Water Resources staff bulletin board also found affordable accommodation for two other interns. The remaining interns were Canberra residents or were lucky enough to have friends in the area to stay with. Accommodation costs are the single biggest issue mentioned by students first starting the Program. Staff members will again be approached for the 2008 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 $4413 to run the 2007 Intern Program, less expensive than 2006 (at $5798) as would be expected with fewer interns to transport and cater for. 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 2007 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 once again provided invaluable support to the Internship Coordinator.
Mounting – 71 specimens
Incorporation – Rhamnaceae, Molluginaceae, Cyperaceae, Euphorbiaceae etc (c. 25 boxes)
Cutting up and sorting of final labels, allocation to collections (including duplicates) for Mike Crisp and Rosemary Purdie (c. 40 boxes) and other smaller sets - Wildlife and Ecology, Bayer, Gittins, Gray (c. 12 boxes)
Allocation of labels to J.J. Bruhl collections (c. 6 pigeon holes)
Search and retrieve of various specimens for new labels etc
Retrieving and allocating new archival labels to QRS Lauraceae (c. 1000)
Shuffling of section of Mimosaceae to reflect new taxonomy and incorporation of Acacia specimens.
Wildlife and Ecology Reference set demounting and foldering (c. 45 folders, c. 400 specimens)
Retrieving Brooker specimens and adding seed packets (c. 800 – 1000)
Processing of returned loans (c. 10 boxes)
Sorting of Goodyera loan for return (c. 30 pigeon holes)
Adding conf slips to Sapotaceae loan for return (c. 1600 sheets)
Alcohol specimen labelling for Portulaca loan to DNA (c. 40 specimens)
Checking of Proteaceae for final labels and incorporation (5 boxes)
Shuffling half of Leptospermum
Botanical illustration collection of Elizabeth McDonald in ANBG library
Checking of cryptogam material prior to data entry ( c. 10 boxes (c. 800 specimens) checked for any repairs needed, polypropylene bags added where necessary, det slips glued in, etc.; plus general check and ordering ready for databaser)
Cryptogam identification (a few moss specimens were identified by Interns during moss ID training sessions)
Remounting SEM photographs
Organising 6 boxes of microscope slides
Ordering recently arrived JA Elix material (c. 90 boxes (ca. 7000 specimens) ordered; first separating Australian from overseas; then Aust. specs into taxonomic order plus within that to state order)
Alcohol specimen labelling of orchid material (510 bottles labelled on top and side)
Research assistance to PhD students Carole Elliot and Tara Hopley studying population genetics and ecology of a native species (Eremophila) and an introduced weed (Willows)