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

RESEARCHERS IN NSW TO SHED LIGHT ON SNAILS AND WORMS


19 November 1997
(137/97)

Greater knowledge of Australian octopuses, spiders, snails 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.

Nine projects totalling $250 700 will be conducted by researchers in New South Wales.

"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 Australian Museum receives $34 000 to complete a major study of Australian freshwater snails, and a $31 000 grant to expand our understanding of marine bristle worms.

"A grant of $16 000 to the University of New South Wales will support research into species of wood rotting mushrooms which are important recycling agents in the environment.

"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 NSW 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 Grants

New South Wales

Taxonomy, Phylogeny and Distribution of Australian Viviparidae and Bithyniidae
Organisation: Australian Museum
Amount: $34 000
Contact: Dr Winston Ponder
The project will allow the completion of work on two important families of freshwater snails. The Viviparidae are among the largest freshwater snails in Australia. Some are common in parts of inland Australia, living in rivers and billabongs and even in irrigation pipes. The Bithyniidae are most common in swamps, slow-moving rivers and billabongs. The snails are often hosts for parasites which can infect vertebrates, such as aquatic birds. The results of this project will significantly assist the planned production of an interactive illustrated guide/key on CD-ROM to Australian freshwater snails, mussels and other mollusc species.

The Systematics of the Ampharetidae, Trichobrancidae, Pectinariidae and Sabellariidae (Polychaeta)

Organisation: Australian Museum
Amount: $31 000
Contact: Patricia Hutchings
This project will contribute significantly to our understanding of the diversity of Australian marine environments. The project will study four families of the polychaete fauna, commonly known as marine bristle worms. Polychaetes are one of the dominant groups of marine invertebrates, both in number of species and individuals. The four families selected for this project are well represented in Australian waters and many undescribed species are known to occur. The study will provide a sound biosystematic foundation for ecological research and monitoring of important marine habitats. New species found in Australian waters will be described, and illustrated keys will be developed to assist with future identification.

Taxonomy and Biogeography of Australian Chydoridae (Cladocera)

Organisation: Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre
Amount: $17 500
Contact: Russell Shiel
Chydorids are small microcrustacea (less than 1 mm) that occur in most inland waters in Australia. Identification of them is critical to understanding habitat diversity, and to recognising and interpreting changes in habitats. The project will produce practical keys for identification of the species. Funding for a postgraduate student is included.

Systematics of the Scavenging Cypridinid Fauna of Eastern Australia (Crustacea: Ostracoda: Myodocopida)

Organisation: Australian Museum
Amount: $53 000
Contact: Andrew Parker
The cypridinid ostracods (small bivalve crustaceans) are the most abundant scavenging macro-organisms in Australian waters, and are also very diverse. Recently, 88 new species of cypridinids were caught in baited traps off the Australian east coast. The project will describe these new species, and a DELTA database and interactive key with graphics will be developed for identification, to assist with future critical ecological and biodiversity studies.

A Taxonomic Revision of the Australian Typhlocybinae (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae)

Organisation: NSW Dept of Agriculture, Biological & Chemical Research Institute
Amount: $35 000
Contact: Murray Fletcher
The micro-leafhoppers (subfamily Typhlocybinae) feed on plant tissue and can cause severe damage to leaf surfaces similar to that caused by plant-feeding mites and thrips. Typical damage is speckling or silvering, leading to reduction in leaf function and leaf death. As well as causing aesthetic damage to ornamentals, several species are agricultural pests, damaging vegetables, orchards and other crops. The native Australian fauna are very distinctive but poorly known. The project will lead to a comprehensive catalogue of the Australian fauna, both native and introduced, and provide means by which the various species can be distinguished.

Taxonomic Revision of Dillwynia (Fabaceae: Faboideae: Mirbelieae)

Organisation: NSW Herbarium, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney
Amount: $25 200
Contact: Peter Weston
Dillwynia is a large genus of the legume family Fabaceae. These shrubs form an important element of dry sclerophyll forests and heaths of eastern and southern Australia. This study will improve our knowledge of the genus by using modern molecular techniques as well as more traditional methods, such as morphology, to resolve, circumscribe and describe all recognised species, and to produce identification tools such as keys. The grant also funds a postgraduate student.

Systematic Studies in Abildgaardieae (Cyperaceae)

Organisation: University of New England, Department of Botany
Amount: $14 020
Contact: Jeremy Bruhl
This study provides taxonomic training for a PhD student through a worldwide study of an ecologically significant plant group commonly known as sedges. The project involves analysis of morphological, anatomical and ultrastructural data for a group of sedges (family Cyperaceae: tribe Abildgaardieae) in order to construct a framework of evolutionary relationships, species descriptions and identification keys for the Flora of Australia.

A Taxonomic Study of the Genus Gymnopilus in Australia

Organisation: University of New South Wales, School of Biological Sciences
Amount:: $16 000
Contact: Betty Rees
The genus Gymnopilus is one of the most attractive and frequently collected wood rotting mushrooms in Australia. Like most other large fungi, no names exist for over half of the species. As these fungi are important recycling agents in the environment, we need to know where the different species are found and what they have in common with each other and species overseas. Gymnopilus may have potential importance as a bioremedial agent in the paper pulp industry.

An Uninterpreted Catalogue and Review of the Autotrophic Euglenids (Protista) of Australian Inland Waters

Organisation: University of Sydney
Amount: $25 000
Contact: Professor David Patterson
This project is an extensive study of one type of single-celled algae, the euglenids. This poorly known group of algae are comon in freshwater habitats and play a significant role in ecosystems. A Comprehensive illustrated catalogue on the euglenids will be produced, plus a field guide for non-professionals who require practical information on this algae for freshwater ecologists.

Contact:
Liz Visher
Australian Biological Resources Study
Environment Australia
02 6250 9554

Commonwealth of Australia