Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia


Science program

The Science Program of the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust is:

  • Obligated first and foremost to the Trust through the relevant Acts and corporate planning.
  • Partially funded by the State Government of NSW and its programs contribute to that government’s policies and goals.
  • The oldest and one of the most highly respected scientific units in Australia. (Science in Australia began at the Royal Botanic Garden and Domain Trust and has always been a strong focus for the discovery, documentation and study of Australian plants).
  • Recognised and valued internationally, nationally and within the State for its science programs (with different programs relevant at different levels).
  • A critical component for the Trust is to remain one of the worlds leading botanic gardens.
  • Accepted as a leading organisation in the conservation and management of plant biodiversity in New South Wales, Australia and the region.
  • Part of a national and international collection of herbaria and botanic gardens (and other organisations) contributing to the understanding, appreciation and conservation of the flora of Australia and its neighbours.

Vision for Science of the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust

The Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust will have exciting, innovative and relevant scientific research programs. It will be recognised throughout New South Wales, Australia and the world as making a major contribution to the discovery and conservation of biodiversity. It will work with the horticultural industry and botanic gardens in plant development and disease diagnosis. Research results and biodiversity data will be communicated using the best available means. The Trust will work in partnership with government agencies (state and federal), universities, botanic gardens and herbaria (local and international) to achieve these aims.

All scientific programs will be widely recognised within New South Wales as important and appropriate, with no reduction in the Gardens’ international reputation for high quality, progressive science.

Objectives for Science of the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust

  • To undertake original research on the plants of New South Wales and neighbouring areas.
  • To effectively disseminate the results of research through publications, products and services.
  • To play a leading role in the conservation of biodiversity in New South Wales and neighbouring areas.
  • To be the primary source of plant diversity information in New South Wales.
  • To lead and contribute to the understanding and appreciation of plant diversity.
  • To assist in the sustainable management of the botanic gardens and the horticultural industry.
  • To contribute to the development of State, national and international policies and legislation.

Priority-setting Criteria

All new programs and projects must be evaluated against the following criteria. Some criteria are deliberately open to interpretation and should be used as a starting point for discussion about a particular program/project. The geographical focus for any program will include New South Wales as well as the rest of Australia and our neighbouring regions (in a scientific, geographic or economic-political sense).

The program or project should:

  1. Be consistent with the implicit and explicit directions and policies of the State Government of New South Wales
  2. Be of scientific merit: i.e. methodologically sound and scientific in approach. The research should ‘change the way we do or think about things’
  3. Contribute to a sense of wonder and excitement about plants, algae and fungi and their biology
  4. Be innovative and/or use the best available methodology
  5. Result in better conservation and management of biodiversity
  6. Provide a service or knowledge not readily available elsewhere (may be part of a coordinated interagency program)
  7. Make best use of our resources, including people, facilities, and preserved and living collections
  8. Contribute to, complement, or initiate other programs in the Trust
  9. Effectively communicate outcomes to the appropriate audience
  10. Raise or maintain the profile of the Trust
  11. Preferably attract external funding or result in income to the Trust
  12. If consistent with the above criteria, be targeted to meet the greatest needs of the identified stakeholders.

Science Promotion

The Trust’s sciences program continued to receive excellent media coverage and staff publicised their work in print, radio and television wherever the opportunities arose.

Other publications and presentations for general audiences are included in the detailed reports for each section.


The number of Honours and higher degree students supervised was 27 this year. Apart from the involvement in the 'Biosystematics' course at the University of New England and the 'Tree of Life' course at the University of New South Wales, staff also delivered guest lectures at various universities, sometimes presenting blocks of key lectures (e.g. Dr Cathy Offord and Dr Edward Liew at the University of Sydney). A number of staff members have adjunct appointments at several universities.

Honorary research associates and volunteers

The Honorary Research Associates continued to be major contributors to our research program and their key research achievements are included within this report within the Plant Diversity section.

Our volunteers continued to play an important role in the herbarium, particularly in the mounting room program, where they painstakingly care for and mount the plant specimens of the herbarium collections. The herbarium could not function without their important contribution. Volunteer contributions in the library and various scientific programs have also been enormously beneficial. 

Extreme Botany. Photo: Dr Maurizio Rossetto

Gotcha!! - Eucalyptus tereticornis flower. Photo: Lotte von Richter
G Errington & R Johnstone collecting Collitris endlicheri. Photo: Cathy Offord
'Pick up sticks' - Juncus psammophilus bases. Photo: Karen Wilson

‘Ecological Burn’. Photo: Lotte von Richter

Pterostylis concinna. Photo: Andrew Orme

Aseroe rubra Photo: John Siemon

Grevillea insignis: This species is a bird-pollinated shrub native to the heathlands of south-western Australia. It belongs to an extraordinarily diverse clade within Grevillea that is distributed across much of the Australian continent, from central Australia deserts to the tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea, varying from prostrate shrubs to tall forest trees and including bird- and insect-pollinated species. Photo: Peter Weston