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Joint Media Release
Greg Hunt MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Federal Member for Flinders
Senator The Hon. Judith Troeth
Senator for Victoria
23 May 2006
The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Environment and Heritage and Senator the Hon. Judith Troeth, Senator for Victoria today announced that researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Museum Victoria and the University of Melbourne have been awarded $226,063 in research grants as part of the Australian Government's Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) research agency.
The grants will enable the scientists to continue vital plant, animal and marine biodiversity research.
"Australia is home to two million species of plants and animals, with 80 per cent found nowhere else in the world," Mr Hunt said. "But we have huge gaps in our scientific knowledge of these species -and Victorian researchers are leading the way to further the scientific world's understanding of many of these plants and animals."
"This national grants programme provides critical support for taxonomists to describe and classify little-known plants, animals and micro-organisms."
Mr Hunt said the new funding would support many exciting research projects in Victoria, including research by the Royal Botanic Gardens that contribute a great deal to our understanding of Australian animal and plant biodiversity.
"Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens has secured a total of $133,063 for four critical plant biodiversity projects," he said.
"Scientists are embarking on a groundbreaking project to re-examine the classification of one of the largest plant families in Australia - the Rhamnaceae.
"The last time this species was treated was in 1863 and the Botanic Gardens researchers will be the first in the world to update the classification of this plant family."
"Researchers will also be undertaking a comprehensive revision of the Boletales - a truffle like macrofungal flora species that has 23 species. Many new species of the fungi have been discovered since the last major taxonomy of the family was described over 20 years ago."
"The fungi attaches itself to the roots of native plants and is a staple of the diet of insects and small mammals."
Senator Troeth said Museum Victoria has also received $66,000 for two unique research projects.
"Researchers have been granted $35,000 to develop an online interactive illustrative guide to the Isopoda species - a crustacean that has over 800 species catalogued in Australia including herbivorous sea centipedes, parasitic fish lice and sea lice and numerous algal species."
"Scientists currently have no convenient way to identify these species and it is hoped the guide will provide crustacean researchers from all over the world assistance in further researching this species."
"A second team of Museum researchers have been granted $31,000 to revise the species classification of Australia's Dragon lizards."
"It is surprising to learn that the Dragon Lizard, as one of Australia's most recognised reptiles, is in need of a species reclassification."
"The Museum's researcher's believe, based on increasing evidence, that the species diversity has been overestimated and this project will use DNA sequencing to review this species - which is of particular importance to many ecological environments around Australia."
Mr Hunt said while the research work undertaken by scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens and Museum Victoria contributed to Australia gaining a reputation as a world leader in biodiversity, research by the University of Melbourne had a direct impact on the Australian economy.
"Researchers at Melbourne University have been granted $27,000 to review the distribution of environmental weeds Coprosma and Galium," he said.
"The documenting of these weed species, including identification keys, descriptions and distribution maps, will ultimately assist farmers in the management of these weeds."
The Australian Biological Resources Study research agency leads the world in providing species information for biodiversity management. The grants are awarded annually under the ABRS Participatory Programme to private researchers and to scientists in universities, museums and herbaria.
ABRS Grants for 2006/07 totalled $1.87 million over 57 projects around Australia.
Kristy McSweeney (Mr Hunt's Office) 0415 740 722
For a full list of the ABRS grants, visit www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/whats-new;
Note to editors: Backgrounder attached: Victorian ABRS project recipients and project descriptions
Photos can be downloaded from www.deh.gov.au/biodiversity/abrs/whats-new