This year has seen a couple of changes in AFF personnel plus a determined push by members of Council to improve our communication with members and donors.
At the last AGM Dr Trevor Wiffin's nomination was accepted for appointment to the Scientific Committee to fill the vacancy left by Professor Clifford. Dr Whiffin is an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at LaTrobe University. His main interests are in plant systematics, evolution and biogeography with a particular interest in Australian rainforest species and the genus Eucalyptus.
Margaret Johnston has taken on the job of AFF Treasurer following on from Charles Morris who has stepped down after seven years in the role. Early in the year there were some delays in processing financial transactions (including memberships and donations) as computer files adn bank accounts were transferred from NSW to Queensland. Since then Margaret has updated the accounting system and Council have reviewed the format of reports for presentation at meetings. The annual auditor's report will be tabeled at the AGM.
During the year, Val Williams and Ian Cox took on the task of producing the AFF newsletters and have already revised the format with a view to providing more feedback on Foundation activities to our supporters. At the same time a sub-committee of Council (Peter Goodwin, Bill Payne and Val Williams) has been working hard to get an AFF Web site up and running. I am very pleased to report that the site has now reached the final testing stage and should be available to the public early in 2004. The site will be hosted by a School of Agronomy and Horticulture server at UQ Gatton.
Another three new AFF Research Grants were approved for funding in 2004. One project will explore a novel treatment for treating hard-coated seed using plasma discharge to etch the seed coat (Professors Hans Griesser and Margaret Sedgley). The second project is on the development of Solanum brownii as a flowering shrub (Andrew Perkins, George Orel, Gillian Towler and Adam Marchant). The third project will try to shed light on the variable responses of Grevillea cultivars to auxin application for root induction on cuttings (Krisantini Sanjaya, Margaret Johnston, Richard Williams and Christine Beveridge).
As in previous years, two AFF Student Prizes were awarded at the annual conference of the Ecological Society. The winners were: Peter Vesk (best oral paper) - Macquarie University - 'Plant Functional Types, Grazing and Fire in the Rangelands', and Joanne Potts (best poster) - University of Melbourne - 'A population viability analysis for Leionema ralstonii'.
The Foundation Research Fund continues to receive strong financial support from groups of the Australian Plants Societies. This support has been vital to the Foundation. I hope the new arrangements for producing newsletters, and the soon to be launched Web site will help to address the lack of feedback to these groups and to all our supporters.
Thus 2003 ends on a positive note for the Foundation. I wish to thank the members of Council who have put in extra effort this year to reinvigorate our communication channels, and the members of the Scientific Committee for their usual work in assessing the grant applications. And last but not least, thank you to all our members and donors for their continuing support.
Professor Richard Williams