Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens turn 20!

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 @ 4:14PM

This week we celebrate the 20th Birthday of the friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens as well as the 40 year anniversary of the formal establishment of the Australian National Botanic Gardens.

The vibrant presence and words of former Australian National Botanic Gardens (ANBG) staff member and Friends Life member Anne Joyce captured the joie de vivre at the celebrations of the 20th birthday of the Friends of the Australian National Botanic Gardens. The garden party was held on the Eucalypt Lawns in the company of mandolins, Mark Carmody and many friends.

Alan Munns is the current president of the Friends of the ANBG. I met him just over three years ago in the lead up to the 2007 election when he and his executive brought the plight of the ANBG to my attention. The firends are fantastic advocates for the ANBG as well as contributing directly through their volunteer efforts.

The Gardens had faced persistent rising costs, including water during the prolonged drought, with little respite. I was pleased to be able to assist in securing a policy commitment from federal Labor for a permanent solution for a sustainable source of water for the Gardens. This will be operational this summer, I am thrilled to report. The Friends highlighted many challenges for the Gardens that were eminently deserving of attention, many of which were discussed at a public meeting.

It was about the big picture: The Gardens are undoubtedly a national treasure and yet the collection in aesthetic, horticultural and scientific terms.  The recognition and appreciation of the Gardens within the Government continues to grow as their status as a unique and precious living collection in a period of climate change and adaptation continues to ascend.

Under the stewardship of Dr Judy West the  strong partnership with the Friends has continued to grow and both staff and Friends are working together with vigour and optimism for the future. I have had the privilege of being present at or part of a number of ANBG and/or Friends functions and events and the mutual respect between the management and staff (described today by Anne Joyce as the ‘heart’) and the friends and volunteers (Anne says the ‘soul’) is warm and genuine.

The growing appreciation of the role the Gardens play in research and scientific endeavour provides evidence of their value as a platform for new, important research partnerships. For example I mentioned in my few words last Sunday the new Alpine Conservation Research Project. The partnership with the CSIRO – The Centre for Australian National Biodiversity Research is also a great example. There is also the Seed Bank initiative. Please see my post script for more insight into some of the amazing things the ANBG is doing.

There is a large and growing group of people who are actively engaged in improving the future prospects of the ANBG on every front. There are over 1600 committed friends, a dedicated professional and volunteer workforce and a growing academic and research community who are directly or indirectly involved with the Gardens through scientific endeavour of one shape or another.

The local ABC, 666Canberra, responded to the growing community interest inthe ANBG by broadcasting from the celebrations on Sunday from the Eucalypt Lawn at the ANBG, including the indefatigable Mark Carmody playing the role of MC through the course of the day. All said, it was a fantastic day with over 5000 people, I heard reported, participating in the celebrations. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Foundation Friends of the Australian National Botanic GardensAnne Joyce, Alison McKenzie and Barbara Daly, all founding Friends of the ANBG,  cutting the Friends 20th Brithday Cake!

Post Script:

Some time ago, a small reception was hosted by the Atlas of Living Australia at the Australian National Botanical Gardens to welcome a delegation from the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

The Biodiversity Heritage Library is an online collaboration of biodiversity libraries from around the world. The BHL representatives were here to discuss ALA joining this global network of biodiversity databases. The good news is the deal was done so the Atlas of Living Australia is now a part of BHL.

I was able to attend briefly, but wanted to belatedly follow up with a few observations because I think it is really important. In my view, this gathering brought together people working on one of the most exciting projects within the realm of Web/Gov2.0.

Imagine an online, open, shared resource that geospatially maps Australia’s biodiversity? That is, flora and fauna. Imagine this resource being so open and accessible, that anybody with an interest, from amateur bird watching enthusiasts to academics undertaking specific research could populate this map of Australia’s biodiversity?

It’s the ultimate crowd-sourcing of data that will improve our understanding of our physical environment and biodiversity. It’s not hard to understand that this data will only grow in its importance, relevance and usefulness.

Well, Director Donald Holbern and his team at the Atlas of Living Australia are well on the way to building this resource on behalf of all Australians.

Donald Hobern gave a slide show presentation, which although I didn’t see it personally, he sent me his slides and notes. I really liked how Donald expressed his motivation for pursuing his vision for the ALA.

He described how in his experience “placing good information in the hands of interested amateurs empowers them to get started and make significant contributions themselves.”

In this way, the ALA represents the “good information” and I marvel at the prospect of the huge number of “interested amateurs” that will be inspired to contribute to an online resource in their area of biodiversity interest.

There are some interesting players in this space. Indentitylife caught my attention because they appear to be offering a species recognition service based on images. I have compiled a list of links of related web sites for anyone who is interested in this area of innovation.

After all, 2010 is the year of Biodiversity:

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