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Issue 44 - May 2002

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:

1. Herbarium

Visit of Chinese Delegation

Five delegates who are part of a Chinese mission visiting Australia to study agricultural biodiversity technology and sustainable development visited the Herbarium on 30 May for a tour and presentation. Alison Cash and Brian Mills from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Australia (AFFA) accompanied the group.

The delegates are sponsored by the Australia-China Cooperative Agriculture Agreement and are mostly experts in plant variety or germ plasm with a plant protection focus. The Commonwealth is hosting this official delegation from Beijing under the auspices of the Australia-China Agricultural Cooperation Agreement. (ACACA)

The visit proved successful with the group taking a keen interest in, and questioning staff, on the various components of systematics research and herbarium activities. The AVH and the interactive keys generated a lot of discussion amongst the delegates and there was an air of disbelief in watching the volunteers mounting specimens. Thanks to Frank Zich for assisting with materials and displays for the visit.

The group also met with staff from subprogram UB on Friday 31 May where three post-doctoral fellows in the subprogram introduced their research, using PowerPoint presentations, to the Chinese Delegation at the Seminar room in Discovery. Bo Wang talked about the incidence of various Fusarium species, particularly the causative agents of Fusarium wilt of cotton, associated with Australian native cottons. Augusto Becerra introduced his work on genetic characterization of Australian native cottons and breeding strategies of transferring resistance genes from native to cultivated cottons. Ruth Genger presented her studies on mapping of resistance genes on chromosomes and development of molecular markers for scald resistant genes from wild barley. The delegation expressed intensive interests in many aspects, such as conservation of wild species and utilization of transgenic crops. Finally, a Chinese silk scarf was given to each of the speakers as a thankful gift.

[Judy West and Bo Wang]

  2. Research Groups


I went to Edinburgh for the Rhododendrons in Horticulture and Science Conference after travelling around Scotland for the first few weeks of May on holiday. The conference was a great success and the mix of scientists, horticulturalists and avid rhododendron growers worked really well. There were talks for everyone to enjoy with 30 talks presented over 3 days, and I found most of them interesting, although I did miss one due to an uncontrollable coughing fit! The horticultural and scientific presentations were usually alternated so the same people wouldn't fall asleep for a full session. Some of my favourites were those about plant hunting in places like Tibet, Yunnan and Indonesia; they definitely helped me to get excited about our upcoming fieldwork in Sulawesi. There were also some very relevant talks to my particular group of rhododendrons, the Vireyas, particularly one on their leaf anatomy and another on the species patterns in New Guinea. I gave my talk on the Saturday morning and I was expecting to be a bit nervous because it was my first talk at a conference, but I wasn't nervous at all and it went really well.

I made a lot of new contacts and friends at this conference and I found myself liking rhododendrons more and more everyday, scary I know! Before moving on from the conference I have to mention the conference dinner. It was a very flash affair and probably the fanciest place I have ever eaten dinner in my life. It was in the Signet library, a building that isn't always open to the public. On arrival we were welcomed by a man playing the bagpipes in full Scottish kilter, they are very loud up close, before moving into the exquisite downstairs library. After being called to dinner, we moved upstairs where we were serenaded by harps and treated to a delightful 4-course meal and what seemed like an endless supply of wine. The after dinner speaker was Sir Peter Hutchison, who was very entertaining talking about one of his first collecting trips to China. All in all a very memorable night.

After the conference was over I stayed in Edinburgh for two weeks studying the extensive living and herbarium collection at RBG Edinburgh. During my time there I walked around their Vireya glasshouse with Dr George Argent, the world expert on Vireyas, discussing ideas and picking his brain for information on the species and also on collecting in Sulawesi. From the living collection I wanted to collect leaves of about 20 species to use in my DNA analyses, however, this didn't go as smoothly as I thought it would. But after several discussions with various people things were sorted out and I collected the leaves and sent them home. After all that I just hope they don't get lost in the post.

The rest of my time in Edinburgh was spent in the herbarium going through specimens getting locations for the biogeography part of my project and also making some morphological measurements. One morning was spent on the SEM with Maureen Warwick going through some of her work on the Vireyas, and she kindly gave me a number of SEM photos to bring home with me. Over my two weeks in the herbarium I had great discussions with a number of people, not mentioned above, about Sulawesi, biogeography and potential collaborations. The time went by so quickly I couldn't believe it when it was time to go home already. So after about 34 hours of travelling I arrived back in Canberra, albeit for only 3 weeks as Lyn and I are heading to Indonesia for fieldwork on the 22nd of June.

[Gill Brown]



Call for Research Proposals

Summer Research Studentships 2002-2003

Following the successful running of the Summer Studentship program over the past few years, the Centre is hoping to offer 3-6 research studentships for tenure during the period December 2002 - February 2003. As was the case last year, the aims of this program are three-fold:

  1. to contribute to raising the profile of the Centre as a major Centre of Research in Conservation Biology and Systematics in Australia;
  2. to identify and attract potential future MSc and PhD students to the Centre; and
  3. to fulfill an educative role by providing experience of working in a research environment.

Stipend Details

The studentships will run for 10 weeks and are particularly aimed at students completing their second or third year of undergraduate studies in an appropriate discipline at an Australian University. Details of the stipend will not be finalised until later in the year but students will be paid a competitive amount.

Guidelines for Research Proposals

All research staff are eligible to compete for the studentships. ‘Bids’ should consist of a 1-2 page research proposal which provides an outline of the project envisaged. All proposals should be directly linked to work that is currently part of the Centre’s research program. They do not necessarily have to be completely finished within the 10 week period but should be reasonably circumscribed projects in which the student could be expected to develop some feeling of ‘ownership’. Students should not be simply regarded as a form of casual labour. Proposals should also indicate the likely costs of consumables, the extent of field work and so forth. Any proposal submitted MUST have been investigated sufficiently well so that the prospective supervisor is certain that all resources or techniques needed for successful completion are available. Given our limited resources, nobody will be able to have more than one Centre-funded studentship.

Proposal Selection

Following submission, all proposals will be circulated for comment and provided they fit the above guidelines, will then be advertised on the Centre Web site and through contact with appropriate University department. The final choice of which proposals will be funded will depend on the quality of the applicants interested in each proposal; the number will depend on quality and financial resources.

The successful applicant will be the overall responsibility of a single supervisor with whom the student will work most of the summer. At the end of the 10-week period, the student is expected to give a short seminar and provide a written report of their project.

Other Sources of Funding

Staff are encouraged to pursue other sources of potential studentship funding. However, before doing so this must be cleared with Jeremy Burdon.

All proposals for CPBR Summer Research Studentships must be submitted to Peter Thrall by cob Monday 15 July 2002.

[Val Oliver]



3. Education and Communication

Lecture Series

The Executive Committee has decided that we will run a series of early evening lectures in late winter/spring presenting aspects of the Centre's research to the general public.

Basically the idea is for our scientists to talk about the results and impacts of four areas of our research or associated activities in a digestible and stimulating form for the general community. I would see our target audience as being environmentally aware but not necessarily having a botanical background.

We are proposing that the lectures be given on the first Wednesday of each month in an evening timeslot (6pm) in the CSIRO Discovery lecture theatre.

The dates are:

7 August;
4 September;
2 October and
6 November

TITLE for the series- we are seeking a catchy title for the series - please send your ideas in to Val Oliver, by email or on paper, in the next week - there will be a special prize for the winning suggestion.

TOPICS for the 4 lectures - if you have ideas for the lecture topics and/or suggestions of presenters, please send them to Val in the next week. A brief outline in a couple of sentences or a few dot points on how you see the presentation being structured would help.

[Judy West]


4. Information Technology and Data Management

Website for Summer Scholarship details:


5. General Centre Matters

Centre’s 10th year Celebration

This year the Centre celebrates its 10th year of operation. To mark the occasion, plans are underway to arrange a luncheon for CPBR Board members and staff following the CPBR Board meeting on 12 July.

Further details will be available shortly.

[Val Oliver]