Australasian Society for Phycology and Aquatic Botany

While Dr Michael Borowitzka was a Queen’s Fellow at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, Townsville, Qld, he commenced publication of the Australian Aquatic Botany Newsletter.  The first issue was distributed by Michael in July 1978 and was a newsletter for those ‘concerned with all aspects of aquatic botany, both freshwater and marine, including taxonomy, ecology, physiology, biochemistry, electron microscopy, biophysics etc.’, i.e., Michael included all those working with algae in Australia in the late 1970’s. He had a mailing list of 70 for the first issue.  The newsletter carried various options for the formation of a society, one of which was the offer by Professor Womersley to host a meeting of interested participants in 1979 in Adelaide (see below).  Issue 2 of the Australian Aquatic Botany Newsletter (November 1978) carried comments on the formation of a society, e.g., ‘If we don’t do something now about forming a society – we never will’ (Margaret Clayton, Monash University), ‘I also support the concept of an Australian Phycological or Aquatic Botany Society to further consolidate communication’ (John Lewis, Department of Defence), ‘An annual subscription of about $5 would help to publish the newsletter’ (Sophie Ducker, University of Melbourne),  ‘I think the Newsletter is a good way to begin’ (Elise Wollaston, University of Adelaide) and ‘Apart from whether it is necessary or desirable to form a separate phycological group in Australia, discussion is needed on whether it should be a “marine” group or include fresh water phycologists’ (H.B.S. Womersley, Adelaide University).  Issue 3 of the Australian Aquatic Botany Newsletter carried a report of a meeting of 52 interested botanists from all states in Australia, held at the University of Adelaide 1-3 March 1979.  At the meeting it was proposed that a society be set up to include all algologists in New Zealand and Australia and a 7-member committee was bought together to report to ‘interested parties’ by 1 January 1980.  The committee members were Dr Bruce Allender (Monash University), Dr Michael Borowitzka (Roche Research Institute, Dee Why, N.S.W.), Dr Sophie Ducker (University of Melbourne), [Dr] Sue Ramm-[Andersen] (University of Melbourne), Dr George Ganf (University of Adelaide), Dr Peter Saenger (East Brisbane, Qld) and Dr David Thomas (University of Tasmania).

The Australasian Society for Phycology and Aquatic Botany (ASPAB) was formally established on Saturday 17 May 1980, with an inaugural meeting held at Monash University.  Prof. Brian Womersley was elected the first President and Michael Borowitzka the Editor of the Newsletter (see tables 1-3 for information regarding the ASPAB office bearers, newsletter dates and meetings).  The first issue of the ASPAB newsletter carried the constitution and news of the ‘Fifth Marine Phycological Meeting, New Zealand’ to be held at the University of Canterbury, 7-11 February 1981.  Membership dues were A$12.00 full and $4.00 student.  By the second issue student grants to enable travel to conferences were being offered.  Ian Price (James Cook University) and Margaret Clayton (Monash University) provided the main article ‘Many phycologists have problems with sex in algae’.  The third issue, which was published just prior to the XIII International Botanical Congress, Sydney carried a directory with summaries of phycological and aquatic research in Australasia.  The 1st AGM was held at the IBC on the 24 August 1981.

In volume 2 of the newsletter we learn that the society had 113 members, including 9 from New Zealand and 9 other international members including Gerald Boalch (UK), Prof. Preisig (Switzerland) and Joanna Kain (UK) who continue their affiliation with ASPAB; in fact Jo liked Australia so much that she retired to Canberra and is our present Treasurer.  In the second issue for 1982 is the Griffith address of the inaugural President who described the publication we know as The Marine Benthic Flora of Southern Australia, Part I or ‘Womersley’s Green’s’ (as it is known in the algal research group at Murdoch University).  In the first issue of volume 3 we find news of the ‘Stewart Island Phycological Field Meeting 23-31 January 1983 where 20 attendees braved cool wet conditions and met one of the characters of New Zealand botany, the Stewart Island collector, Mrs Eileen Willa (Durvillea willana).  At an executive meeting in early 1983 it was decided that a student prize would be awarded for the best presentation at an ASPAB conference.  In the second issue for 1983 Sophie Ducker described her first holiday in Australia (with Dr Ethel McLennan) at Apollo Bay and we also see the artistic flare of Elizabeth Gordon-Mills who has gone on to silver smithing such things as Amphibolis seedlings and Quangong [Santalum] seeds.  In 1984 the ASPAB newsletter had its first cover illustration thanks to the botanical illustrating ability of Dr Harry Swart (Mycologist, University of Melbourne).  This illustration was also used on the T-shirts for the 3rd annual conference in 1984 and accurately reflects the wording of the ASPAB constitution, a society for all ‘persons with an interest in phycology and aquatic botany’.

In the first issue for 1984 we are told that Geoff McFadden was awarded a student prize, the start of many that Geoff would win over the years.  There is also a submission from ASPAB regarding the setting up of an Institute of Freshwater Studies and discussion on the funding decisions of the Australian Biological Resources Study, which at that time excluded research funding for non-vascular plants.  The second issue was the first to carry photographs of phycologists and, thanks to Margaret Clayton (Editor) we know who are in the photographs because of the captions.  In reviewing the ASPAB newsletter for this article I realise that we have many photographs of botanists but in many cases no record of who they are.  I make a plea to editors of the newsletter in future to add the names of the botanists in the photographs and also for legal purposes we need to acknowledge copyright of the photographs.

Volume 5 of the newsletter provided the new constitution for the society with a number of amendments being passed at the 1984 Rottnest Island AGM. Strangely the 1984 constitution did not include student membership although the dues page still listed the student dues at $4.00 per annum.  We have yet to find out who all the ASPAB members were in the pool at the Rottnest Lodge Resort or indeed who won ‘the free (very rare) copy of “Seaweeds of Australia”’ (see page 13 ASPAB newsletter Vol. 5 No. 1).  Issue 2 of volume 5 announced that the 3rd International Phycological Congress (IPC) would be held in Melbourne in 1988 and provides an explanation of the use of Bellotia as the ‘crest’ for the conference.  It also provides a notice of the 6th ASPAB conference in Hobart (1986).  Volume 6 issue 1 contains a 2-page spread of photos from the Hobart conference but not one name, while I can recognise a number of people there are many I cannot.  I plan to place these photos on the ASPAB website.  Please look at them and help to put names to faces.
Congratulations Tim Entwisle on winning the student prize and loosing the ‘h’.  The Editor also discusses the ‘lack of employment opportunities for phycologist and other in Australia’, how times have changed.  Issue 2 of 1986 contains reports of a number of conferences and the competition for an ASPAB logo.  The number of members in September 1986 was 200 (p. 9 Vol. 6 No. 2).
By 1987 a number of well deserved prestigious honours had been awarded to Bryan Womersley for ‘Womersley’s Greens’.  Notices of revision to the constitution again fill the pages of Vol 7 issue 1 but there was also an offer of a free lunch from Alan Cribb.  Did anyone join Alan for lunch?  At the AGM held in Townsville in May 1987 the members voted to accept the design by Meredie Giffen, Faculty of Arts Design & Applied Science, South Australian College of Advanced Education, as the ASPAB logo.  As you all know the logo is a circle within which sits a stylised stem of Amphibolis antarctica with the epiphyte Dicranema revolutum.  The logo was used officially for the first time as a masthead for the newsletter Vol. 7 No. 2.  In the same issue is a copy of an open letter from Senator Vanstone (p. 11) asking for ammunition to stop the fall in federal government funding for pure research (must be a different person from the one we all know).

The first issue of volume 8 is very special since it contains the retirement reminiscences of Elise Wollaston and Bryan Womersley.  The second issue for the year coincided with the IPC and provided an article on Enid Robertson.  The third issue for the year was given the subtitle ‘Collectors Issue’ by the new Editor Alan Millar.  There is a great photo of two jovial delegates to the IPC on the cover, but again no names, in fact the issue is full of photos of delegates to the IPC but no names although we do have a key to the four Mike’s who attended.
Following the bumper year of 1988 the first issue of volume 9 understandably has little news but by the second issue there are articles on two major algal herbaria at NSW and AD.  We also hear that Anitra Wenden (Student Member, ASPAB Executive) will dive in Antarctica in a ‘black and shocking pink, excessively thick wetsuit’ (I have seen the movie at the Imax have you?).  Dues were raised for the first time in 1989 although there was no mention of the rise in either the minutes of the 1988 or 1990 AGM.  In 1990 an ASPAB conference was held in New Zealand for the first time but membership had dropped to 136 by the AGM (see report Vol. 10 No. 1).  This issue of the newsletter bought to light the ‘I’ word, incorporation, which has sadly dogged the society from January 1990 and is still not completed.  The second issue for 1990 contained news of conferences and announced that the 1991 ASPAB conference would return to the University of Adelaide, the site of the meeting in March, 1979.  The conference was said to be the VIth but by my calculation was the 8th (see table ).  A comparison of the Vol. 11 No. 1 (1991) and Vol 21. No. 1(2001) indicates how far we have moved in 10 years with incorporation.  Can we complete this process before the next Perth conference in 2002?

Issue 2 in 1991 covers the demise of the Flora and Fauna Handbook series of South Australia and the move by for the aquatic sciences to become more vocal via FASTS.  The only issue of the ASPAB newsletter for 1992 discussed the numbering of the conferences and concludes that the conference to be held in that year would be the tenth.  This is so only if the conference on Stewart Island in 1981 was an official ASPAB conference, which was not the consensus in 1981 (see the cover of Vol. 4 No. 1).  In 1992 we hear the welcome news that there will be an Algal Flora of Australia series supported by ABRS.  In 1993 the newsletter was given the number Vol. 12 and so there are two issues Vol. 12 No. 1 (see table ***).  The 1993 issue has a long item by John Huisman on student award presentations.  This article is reproduced on the ASPAB website for the benefit of students (address***).  Issue 2 for 1993 continues the incorporation blues (p. 6) but also discusses a national approach to the problem of ‘blue-green algae’.
The ASPAB newsletters for 1994 had a strange numbering (see table ***) which bought ‘the newsletters .. into line’ (p. 6 Vol. 14, No. 2).  In these issues were the minutes of the Rottnest AGM which conferred life membership on Bryan Womersley and provided all of us with a window into China.  From this time contacting the ASPAB executive was made easier via email.  In 1995 the news that the ASPAB-supported ‘Seaweeds of New Zealand’ was published.  In 1996 the minutes for the Stradbroke Island AGM were not published.  Although it may seem strange to some to publish the official minutes of our AGM in the newsletter they provide a lot of information of historical value.  It is also important that members who did not attend the AGM have an opportunity to read the content of the AGM.  Although the publication of minutes of the AGM is not specifically proscribed by the new constitution of ASPAB (Inc.) I request that the minutes are always published in the newsletter following the AGM as an information tool for all members.
In 1996 Sophie Ducker (Life Member, ASPAB) and Wendy Nelson both received honours for their work in phycology.  Volume 17 announced that an international travel award was available to student members and even today this award is extremely good value. For those of you who have received the award I encourage you to continue supporting ASPAB and so future student awards.

Vol. 18, No. 1 bought to our attention that algae are endangered, a point reiterated in the last issue of the newsletter.  The second issue for 1998 led with the cover story on algal collections of William Dampier and reports from the Dunedin conference including the minutes of the AGM.  ASPAB was on the web from 1998.  By Vol. 19 No. 1 Bryan Womersley’s The Marine Benthic Flora of Southern Australia, Part IIIC or ‘The Reds IIIC’ was published and the editor was trying to make us believe that not everyone goes to Bali for a holiday.  The second issue of Vol. 19 led with the AMANI database and included a report from Katherine Chaston, one of the recipients of an ASPAB international student travel award.  Vol. 20, No. 1 was filled with the news from the Sorrento conference.  The third rise in annual dues was also announced.  Louise Phillips also wrote an article detailing how students can obtain financial support for travel and overseas study.  The second issue for 2001 announced the publication of ‘Marine Plants of Australia’ by John Huisman and gave us an insight into phycology in fiordland.  The first issue for 2001 was full of incorporation, the second news from the Heron Island conference.
A note about the author:  I am in the final year of a Masters in Archives & Librarianship.  I would like to obtain a complete set of the newsletters, conference programs and abstracts and minutes of the annual general meetings for ASPAB.  If any member is able to provide me with any of these items which they are happy to donate to the ASPAB Archive please contact me cowanr@cbs.curtin.edu.au (my contact details are available on the ASPAB webpage and the website of Curtin University of Technology via the staff link).