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

W.A. RESEARCHERS TO SHED LIGHT ON AUSTRALIA'S SCORPIONS


19 November 1997
(137/97)

Greater knowledge of Australian octopuses, scorpions, 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.

Six projects totalling $142 900 will be conducted by researchers in Western Australia.

"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 Western Australian Museum receives a grant of $19 000 for research into the distribution patterns of ground-dwelling spiders, and $38 000 grant to expand our knowledge of Australia's marine sponges, about which very little is known.

"The Curtin University of Technology receives $13 000 for an important study of up to 30 new species of Australian scorpions, and the results should have significant ecological and medicinal importance.

"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 Western Australian 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

Western Australia

Systematics and Biogeography of the Australian Lychas Scorpions (Scorpionida: Buthidae)
Organisation: Curtin University of Technology
Amount: $13 000
Contact: Associate Professor Jonathan Majer
The Lychas species are scorpions which are quite common in most parts of Australia. People who are occasionally stung by these scorpions usually report local pain. However, the death of at least one child has been blamed on a member of this type of scorpion. This project will study as many as 30 new species of Australian Lychas, and the results will have significant ecological and medicinal importance.

Some Genera in the Angianthinae Inuleae - Asteraceae

Organisation: Western Australian Herbarium
Amount: $24 600
Contact: Paul Wilson
Native everlasting daisies are becoming an increasingly important export crop and are considered desirable for horticulture. This study will revise the composite genera Decazesia, Polycalymma, Myriocephalus, Leptorhynchos, Cratystylis and Leucochrysum to prepare Flora of Australia treatments.

Taxonomic Revision of Gompholobium Smith and Sphaerolobium Smith (Leguminosae)

Organisation: University of Western Australia, Department of Botany
Amount: $17 300
Contact: Jennifer Chappill
The native Australian legume genera Gompholobium (including Burtonia) and Sphaerolobium are important understorey shrubs in forests and woodlands throughout southern Australia. There has been no published revision of these genera since Bentham in 1864 recognised a total of 45 species. Recent work suggests there are at least 17 new species to be described. Preliminary examination of herbarium material indicates that many taxa are poorly understood and that a full revision is required examining specific and generic boundaries before a Flora of Australia treatment can be prepared.

Systematics and Biogeography of the South-West Australian Sponge Fauna, Orders Haplosclerida, Petrosida, Astrophorida and Hadromerida (Porifera: Demospongiae)

Organisation: Western Australian Museum
Amount: $38 000
Contact: Jane Fromont
Sponges are filter feeders that occur in all marine habitats and are one of the dominant groups of sessile animals in shallow depths around Australia. Marine sponges are of particular interest to the pharmaceutical industry. This project will describe common Western Australian marine sponges, and will determine which species are found only in Australia and which occur throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

The Systematics of Australian Spiders of the Subfamily Lachesaninae (Araneae: Zodariidae)

Organisation: Western Australian Museum, Department of Terrestrial Invertebrates
Amount: $19 000
Contact: Mark Harvey
The ancient group of ant-feeding, ground-dwelling spiders in the genus Australutica are particularly significant in understanding the biodiversity of Australia's forest and heath ecosystems. This project will examine in detail the species and distribution patterns of these spiders. It will also help in assessing the links of a section of the Australian fauna with fauna of other Gondwanan land masses, last joined together over 100 million years ago. The project includes a postgraduate student.

Flora of Australia Treatments of Andersonia, Sprengelia, Cosmelia and Sphenotoma (Epacridaceae)

Organisation: unattached
Amount: $31 000
Contact: Kristina L Lemson
Epacridaceae or Southern Heaths are a family of plants closely related to the Northern Hemisphere heathers. They are common in heathland and woodland ecosystems in Australia. The genera treated in this project are mostly Western Australian endemics, with the exception of Sprengelia, which occurs in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales. Some species of Southern Heaths are critically endangered by the fungus Phytophthora, and they are all susceptible to the fungus. This project will provide taxonomic information about the species to help in decision-making for conservation.

Contact:
Liz Visher
Environment Australia
02 6250 9554

Commonwealth of Australia