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Media Release
Senator the Hon Robert Hill
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Minister for the Environment

VICTORIAN SCIENTISTS TO SHED LIGHT ON OCTOPUSES AND FUNGI


19 November 1997
(137/97)

Greater knowledge of Australian octopuses, spiders, flies and a raft of other species will be the outcome of 52 research projects being funded by the Australian Biological Resources Study.

Federal Environment Minister Robert Hill has announced funding of $1.2 million for 1997-98 for vital taxonomic research into identifying and describing a range of relatively unknown Australian plants, animals and micro-organisms.

Five projects totalling $145 700 will be conducted by scientists at Victorian universities and other research institutions.

"More than 75 per cent of Australia's species remain a mystery because they are yet to be studied in detail.

"Through this national grants program, important support is provided for taxonomists to gather, synthesise and produce critical inventories of our plants and animals, particularly for species that are still completely unknown.

"Among the projects, the University of Melbourne receives $37 000 to conduct an important study of at least 60 species of octopuses in Australian waters, including identifying current and potential fisheries species.

"With a grant of $20 000, Melbourne's Institute for Horticultural Development will research fungi which disfigures the leaves of a range of native plants and can reduce production, providing valuable information for the horticulture and forestry industries.

"The Australian Biological Resources Study plays a critical role in helping Australians better understand the natural environment, laying the groundwork for improved conservation strategies and potential nature-based industries.

"Apart from helping us better understand Australia's biodiversity, this work will add to the scientific basis on which large-scale conservation projects, such as those being supported by the Natural Heritage Trust, are based."

A list of the Victorian projects is attached.

Contact: Matt Brown (Senator Hill) 02 6277 7640 or 0419 693 515
Liz Visher (Australian Biological Resources Study) 02 6250 9554
19 November 1997
137/97

Australian Biological Resources Study
1998 Research Projects

Victoria

Taxonomy of Benthic Octopuses of Australian Waters (Family Octopodidae)

Organisation: University of Melbourne, Department of Zoology
Amount: $37 000
Contact: Mark Norman

There has been little research in the past into Australian octopuses, but recent studies have found that Australia has the highest diversity of octopuses in the world. They range from pygmies the size of a thumbnail to 10 kg animals with arm spans of over three metres. Sixty species have been recognised in the past five years, of which 44 are new to science. Thirteen species, including seven of the newly identified species, are harvested either directly through pot fisheries or as bycatch in crayfish and trawl fisheries. Resolution of the taxonomy of these top-level predators is essential to identify species, including current and potential fisheries species, and to determine distributions. Such research can also provide the biological data crucial for effective protection and sustainable harvests.

Taxonomic Studies of Australian Lasioglossum s.l. (Apoidea: Halictidae)

Organisation: Museum of Victoria
Amount: $33 000
Contact: Kenneth Walker

Australia has a unique bee fauna, dominated by primitive native bee groups. This study will further our understanding of one of the dominant Australian bee guilds, the Lasioglossum species complex. It will attempt to resolve basic questions such as: What do we have? Where do they occur? What plants do they visit? What are their interrelationships? What can we learn by comparing the overseas bee fauna with our own? The project outputs will be two-fold, a scientific overview of these bees and a better public awareness of forgotten pollinators.

Generic Monographs of Australian Siphonous Green Algae

Organisation: University of Melbourne, School of Botany
Amount: $17 650
Contact: Gerald Kraft

This project will complete work on several monographs covering siphonous marine algae in five families. The marine algae are from tropical and subtropical waters of eastern and western Australia. Little or no monographic work has been produced in the past 80 years on these species, and the project aims to document 27 new genera.

Taxonomic Revision of Zygnemataceae (Chlorophyta) in Australia

Organisation: Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
Amount: $31 000
Contact: Timothy Entwisle

The Zygnemataceae is a large family of filamentous green algae, including over 600 species worldwide. They grow in lakes, streams and ponds, sometimes producing weed problems in farm dams. Some species form yellow-green mats on exposed soil in deserts, heathland and forests. Spirogyra, the largest and most common genus, is used in secondary schools and universities to show the microscopic structure of algal cells. This study will provide a sound taxonomic base for this important group.

Cercosporoid Fungi on Australian Native Plants

Organisation: Institute for Horticultural Development
Amount: $27 120
Contact: Vyrna Beilharz
Cercosporoid fungi cause disfiguring leaf spots on a wide range of hosts and can reduce production. Of those affecting native Australian plants, few have been described or named. They tend to be host specific, and most are probably new to science. The aim of this project is to describe, illustrate and provide names for the cercosporoid fungi on native Australian plants. Herbaria specimens will be the basic source of information, supplemented with fresh specimens when possible. An understanding of these pathogens is important in horticulture, forestry, conservation and quarantine.

Contact:
Liz Visher
Environment Australia
02 6250 9554

Commonwealth of Australia