Wednesday 17th Feb - Day Four: Collecting seeds for the seed bank with botanists, James and Natalie

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Today we were collecting seeds for Tasmanian seed bank.

If you want to see a seed bank in action in Sydney, there is one in Campbelltown.

I was with Louise (a teacher on the expedition), James and Natalie (two botanists at the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens) on Mount Mangana today. We were at 500m looking for acacia tree seeds and snowberries. I was given the task of collecting the fruit (resembling flowers and containing tiny seeds) of the snowberry and placing them into a bag. At each plant that I collected fruit, I had to add that plant to an overall count. In the end, I collected fruit from 63 plants. Natalie had collected from 29 plants, so in total, we surveyed 92 plants. It's important to collect seeds from many of the same species of plants so that you have a wide genetic diversity. That way, if you ever cross the plants together, they won't have a limited gene pool.

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The picture above is the snowberry fruit. To touch, it is rather thick. The white 'petals' are actually called sepals. When pulled apart, it is sticky and there are tiny seeds. I found out from James and Natalie that when storing seeds for their seed bank, they need to dry them out until they only have 15% moisture. If you store a seed with 100% moisture, it can explode (crack open, not start a fire ball!). Botanists put the seeds in a room with fans circulating the air at 15% humidity and at 15 degrees Celsius. This dries out the seeds in a gentle way.

While Skyping one of my year six classes Natalie suggested I taste the pepperberry leaf (below). Boy, was my mouth on fire! I’m normally sensitive to pepper and, much to the amusement of my students, I couldn’t wait to wash my mouth out. Very amusing stuff.

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After collecting the snowberries, we started surveying the Acacia plants in the same area. We collected seed pods from each plant and in total collected from fifty plants! James wrote up the results of the survey afterward. 

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 On Mt. Mangana, we all started noticing a lot of bees. One bumblebee even let me take photos of it up close! We found some bee hives and the honey scent was so delicious. Bruny Island has Leatherwood trees and the bees use the pollen to make delicious honey. One of the locals a few days ago let me try some and it has quite a spicy flavor. The National Parks and Wildlife Services in Tasmania also put up nest boxes. (see below)

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Just on Adventure Bay again, the photo below shows where Captain Cook landed but the French were there too. The French scientists did the first holotype of a eucalyptus tree. 

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See you tomorrow when I go on the boat to dredge in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel!