Bringing Banksia vincentia back from the brink

ABC Illawarra

By ABC Open producer Sean O’Brien


November 23, 2016 17:31:00
An afternoon stroll by a nursery owner has turned up a new species of banksia that authorities are now working hard to protect.Jacki Koppman spied the unusual-looking banksia and thought it best to take a cutting which she sent to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney for identification.Her instincts were spot on — the banksia turned out to be a new species.Now named Banksia vincentia, at the time it was discovered, there were just 14 individual plants in the wild. Photo:
Two people from the Office of Environment and Heritage planting the Banksia vincentia in the wild. Photo:
Dr David Bain is the Threatened Species Officer with the Saving our Species program at the Office of Environment and Heritage (ABC Open: Sean O’Brien)
Dr Bain has designed a three-step insurance plan for the banksia, including partnering with a number of botanic gardens including Wollongong Botanic Gardens, the Australian Botanic Gardens in Canberra, and gardens as far afield as the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens in the United Kingdom.”The species is in a dire situation, but I’m still optimistic we can keep this species alive,” Dr Bain said.”I regularly go to the site to look at the health of the plants, measure the width to see if they’ve grown, see if they’re in flower.”The five plants are looking really healthy, and we’ve got a couple of seedlings coming up as well which we’re excited about.”But looking after the plants in situ is only one part of the plan.”In case something catastrophic happens, we’re also building up insurance populations in the various botanic gardens, propagating the plants from cuttings, growing some plants from seeds, and also holding seed banks.”We’re hoping that eventually we can take some of these plants and re-establish new populations back in the wild.”What is future for Banksia vincentia?Currently there are 600 seeds in various seed banks and 24 plants have been germinated from seeds at the Australian Botanic Gardens.About 60 propagated cuttings are growing at botanic gardens throughout the NSW south-east, including at the Wollongong Botanic Gardens.Dr Bain hopes to get to several hundred plants growing in botanic gardens before plants are shifted into the wild. (Office of the Environment and Heritage)
“The challenge of saving Banksia vincentia is an investment by the NSW Government’s Saving Our Species program, which aims to protect almost 1,000 animals and plants at risk of extinction for the next 100 years in the wild,” Dr Bain said.”My hope for the Banksia vincentia is that we can have this plant surviving on its own in the wild without intensive management.”There’s an intrinsic value in all species and just for that reason alone, we don’t want to lose this species.”While the concern is always there for threatened species, I’m always optimistic, and I love my job.”I get to interact with lots of different people, I’m out in the bush regularly, building partnerships, and interacting with experts in the conservation and science field from around NSW, so it’s a really rewarding job.” That number is now down to five.The plants are growing in an area close to urban development and are susceptible to threats such as fire, pathogens, and even theft.Designing insurance plan for plant’s futureWith so few specimens, it would not take much to wipe out the entire population.Threatened species officer, Dr David Bain from the Saving our Species program at the Office of Environment and Heritage has a number of rare and threatened species under his care.Banksia vincentia is one of them.
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Saving Australia's rarest Banksia
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Meet the FIFO piano tuner battling heat and humidity

Martin Tucker says the pianos in Darwin that are played regularly are in the best shape. A lot of things in the Top End swell up over the wet season — rivers, cane toads, even pianos.Yes, pianos, according to fly-in fly-out piano tuner Martin Tucker.Mr Tucker has been visiting Darwin every year for the past 10 years, tuning and tweaking the Top End’s baby grands and uprights in a never-ending battle with the wet. (105.7 ABC Darwin: Mike Kermode)
He told 105.7 ABC Darwin that pianos “like” humidity levels that hover between 30 and 50 per cent, which means the wet season average of around 80 per cent can cause them some grief.The steel strings can begin to rust and fabric wrappings become weighed down.”The felt swells up with the moisture in the air and that changes the sound.”It’s a bit like having a paperback book that you leave outside — if you leave it long enough over the wet season, the whole book swells up.”And if that’s the hammer that hits the string on a piano, if that swells up it just doesn’t sound very nice.”Flying north for the winterMr Tucker said his time tuning instruments in the Top End started around a decade ago when he flew up from Hobart to visit a friend.”They had a piano and being a piano tuner they said: ‘Can you bring up your tools?'”And then the neighbour said: ‘Can you do ours as well?’

Martin Tucker tunes by ear and says there are now around 80 he services regularly around Darwin. (105.7 ABC Darwin: Mike Kermode)
Word spread and the trips became regular.”Every year I would get to Easter time in Tasmania, get quite cold, book a ticket up to Darwin and arrive here probably late May just as the dry was kicking in.”Mr Tucker said there were around 80 pianos across Darwin and a bit beyond which he tuned, semi-regularly, by ear — the old-fashioned way.”I’m a musician so that’s just how I do it.”The ear is the finest thing.” A steak on a cattle station in exchangeMost of Mr Tucker’s clients are within bike riding distance in the northern suburbs of Darwin.He said there was a piano at a croc cruise business on the Adelaide River that he had travelled to tune, and he liked to do at least one trip to Batchelor each year so he could go for a swim in nearby waterfalls.He has also tuned a piano in “very bad” condition for some pastoralists near Alice Springs.”It took me all day to fix,” he said.”But they had a cattle station and I got a steak for lunch — I was happy with that.”Like many dedicated experts, Mr Tucker is something of a purist and insists that all his clients really should get their pianos tuned at least once a year.He has even had to tell some that theirs was too far gone and needed to be replaced.”[There] comes a time, sometimes I tell my clients, ‘this is the last time I’m tuning this piano, if you’re serious about your piano you need to upgrade and get a new one’,” he said.”And what happens, a year, two years later, they ring me: ‘Martin, we really like our piano, it has a lot of sentimental value, can you come and give it one more tune?'”I go, ‘Oh, alright then, but this is the last time’.”
(105.7 ABC Darwin: Mike Kermode) 105.7 ABC Darwin

By Mike Kermode and Jacqueline Breen


November 23, 2016 15:42:30

Martin Tucker has been flying from Tasmania to the Territory for the past 10 years to tune pianos.
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