- What does being a botanist mean?
If you check the dictionary the broad definition it gives is a person who studies all plant life – from grasses to tall trees. However there’s more to it for me. Being a botanist is not just learning the names of plants, it’s also about being passionate for plants, by exploring for them in the outdoors, understanding the role they play in our environment and passing that information on to everyone.
- What is a typical day for a botanist?
My role has about 60% field work and 40% office work so some days I’ll spend them out in the field identifying and recording the names of plants and vegetation communities I see. While I am in the office, information from my field work goes into reports and maps. However my favourite time in the office is spent working in our lab, preserving the plants collected from field trips. For the last 18 months, I have also been a tour guide for Boobook Ecotours. I run the Wildflower Wander Tours in August to visit Gurulmundi and Thrushton National Park, which are local and well-known wildflower spots in the Roma region. However, I am available to run the Wheat, Wells and Wildlife and also our Discover Carnarvon Ranges Day Tours.
- What do you do with the plants you collect?
We always try to collect at least two pieces of a plant with leaves, flowers and/or fruit so we can keep one for the office herbarium and send the other dried piece to be identified by expert botanists at the Queensland Herbarium at the Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens in Brisbane.
- What is a herbarium?
It is a place where preserved plant specimens are stored. There are herbariums all around the world and at least one in each state of Australia. Each specimen is stored with details about its location, habitat and what it looked like while alive. The specimens are very useful to refer back to identify plants later seen out in the wild which is why we have a herbarium at BOOBOOK.
- What kinds of plants does the BOOBOOK herbarium have?
We have over 3000 specimens that have been collected by our staff. They come from an area spanning south to the QLD/NSW border, west to Thargomindah, north to Springsure and east to Dalby. There are specimens of grasses, ferns, trees, shrubs and everything in between. We also take pride in our collection of species and are happy to assist with wild plant identifications.
- Have you ever seen a new or rare plant?
Yes and have several times. There are several kinds of rare plant that grow locally which include species of grass, herb, shrubs and trees so I’m always on the lookout. It’s exciting when a rare plant turns up where you didn’t expect it and are the first person to collect it from there.
- Do you have any favourite plants?
I like most plants, even the boring ones. I also like to propagate native plants that are easy to grow and make good garden plants. Heaths, myrtles, grevilleas, emu bushes, gum trees and pea bushes would be top of my list.