Minister Malcolm Turnbull with Dr Doug Hoese at the launch of the Zoological Catalogue of Australia—Fishes, at the Sydney Fish Markets in September. [Photo: B. Kuchlmayr]
Welcome to the first online edition of Biologue. The decision to move Biologue entirely online has not been made lightly, but preparing, designing, printing and distributing Biologue absorbs significant resources at ABRS that can be better directed to our editing and publishing programmes.
The 2006–07 year has been a busy and productive one for ABRS. We have published 11 books and one CD ROM. Particular highlights have been the excellent effort put in by the non-vascular flora team of Patrick McCarthy and Lyn Jessup, with graphics work by Brigitte Kuchlmayr, in publishing three volumes of the Algae of Australia, and the efforts of Pam Beesley, Brigitte Kuchlmayr and Alice Wells in the fauna team in the long awaited release of the three volume set of the Zoological Catalogue of Australia—Fishes . This culminated in a highly successful launch of the fish set by the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP
A significant challenge for the next 12 months will be the Flora of Australia. We plan to publish some treatments as fascicles to assist in publishing the significant backlog of part treatments.
We expect to release a new version of our website by December 2007. This overhaul, thanks to Lyn Jessup, Brigitte Kuchlmayr and Dena Paris, will hopefully make it far easier to navigate and locate resources.
We have also been very active with the Australian Faunal Directory (AFD). There have been substantial additions to the checklists. A new online user interface should be released in the new year and will enable compilers to contribute to the database live over the web. We anticipate adding a new map based on biogeographic regions, and greater interoperability with other systems via web services.
Assistant Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, the Hon. John Cobb MP, has announced the appointment of Dr David Yeates to the ABRS Advisory Committee. Dr Yeates will replace Dr Andy Austin who attended his last meeting in August. Dr Austin has been an outstanding contributor to the Committee during his tenure and ABRS would like to take this opportunity, on behalf of both staff and the Advisory Committee to thank him for his hard work in making the programme a success. We would like to welcome Dr Yeates to the Committee and look forward to working with him.
The Advisory Committee had their 59th and 60th meetings this year. Our grant funding remains at a static level and 60 projects were approved by Minister Cobb. ABRS trialled a new feedback form for grant applicants this year, which met with a mixed reception. We will look at modifying the form in future years, taking feedback into consideration.
Dr Jeremy Bruhl has been appointed as the 2008 Australian Botanical Liaison Officer (ABLO) at Kew. Applications for the position of ABLO have been down in recent years, and ABRS has been discussing potential changes to the structure of the ABLO with the Council of Heads of Australian Herbaria and the Advisory Committee.
Lastly, Minister Cobb has approved changing the name of the ABRS grants programme from the ABRS Participatory Programme to the ABRS National Taxonomy Research Grant Programme. It was agreed by the Committee and ABRS that this name better reflected the current and emerging priorities for the programme.
ABRS funding was continued for another four years at current levels in the 2007–08 Budget. In addition to this, ABRS was successful in obtaining a funding increase for the 2007–08 financial year from Departmental sources. This money will be used to offer seed funding for a small number of taxonomic research positions and honours projects. Separate funding has since been provided to help develop ABRS web services and to assist smaller herbaria and faunal collections contribute to Online Zoological Collections of Australian Museums (OZCAM) and Australia’s Virtual Herbarium (AVH).
We have had a number of staff changes, with the permanent appointment of Gail Kenmuir, our administration officer, and the appointment of Annabel Wheeler, who is providing a taxonomic names service to the Department of Environment and Water Resources (DEW). Our assistant flora editor, Anna Monro, has left ABRS and we wish her the very best in her future career. The Australian Biodiversity Information Facility (ABIF) officer, David Levy, left ABRS in early 2007 but returned in October 2007. ABRS has been fortunate enough to have had two officers from our Department’s Graduate Programme, Amy Jarrott and Erin Croot, for three months each. Amy undertook a survey of the Department’s species data use and produced a poster on Linnaeus, celebrating the tercentenary of his birth. More recently, Erin Croot drafted a new strategic plan for ABRS covering the period 2007–2011, and she also began to organise the National Taxonomy Forum.
ABRS operates under a strategic plan. Given the crisis currently facing Australian taxonomy, and the clear direction from the Department that ABRS is to lead a national response, it seemed appropriate to review the goals and objectives of the plan. ABRS staff contributed to the new plan through a planning day. A new draft strategic plan has been prepared and reviewed by the Advisory Committee and is currently being circulated to peak bodies for input. We anticipate releasing it by December 2007 and it will operate until 2011.
National Taxonomy Forum
A National Taxonomy Forum was held on 4–5 October 2007 at the Australian Museum, NSW, with the kind support of the Museum and the Federation of Australian Science and Technological Societies (FASTS). We sent out over 200 invitations for institutional representation and reached our target of over 85 attendees. Many institutions that could not send representatives, forwarded their key issues by written submission. Key themes to the Forum were research priorities and gaps, resourcing for taxonomy and the needs of the wider user community. The results of the Forum will be edited by FASTS and co-published by ABRS and FASTS in early 2008 as the first step in developing a national strategy for taxonomy.
Participants at the recent National Taxonomy Forum at the Australian Museum, Sydney. [Photo: B. Kuchlmayr]