Tom Masaglio ‘’Say cheese-tree!' Exploring Australia's vascular plant photographic record’

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Thursday, 18 May 2023 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm

Tom, from University of New South Wales, will talk about a complex mix of factors resulting in almost 18% of Australia’s native vascular plant species being without easily accessible photographs; SE Australia is well covered, but NT, QLD, and WA have thousands of unphotographed plants.

In the world of biodiversity data, physical specimens remain the gold standard, allowing for microscopic examination and DNA extraction among many benefits. However, there is an increasing recognition of the value of photographs for documenting difficult-to-collect taxa, such as tall trees or spiny plants. Photographs also offer a wealth of information that is absent or lost from physical specimens, such as flower colour or growth habit, and are valuable tools for identification keys, field guides, conservation and research.

Based on a comprehensive survey of 33 major online photographic databases, almost 18% of Australia's approximately 21,000 native vascular plant species do not have an easily accessible field photograph. Southeastern Australia is relatively well-documented, whilst Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland have thousands of unphotographed plants. A complex mix of factors relating to taxonomy, geography and morphology drive these patterns.

Thomas Mesaglio is a PhD candidate at UNSW Sydney working on our understanding of Australian plants and how to improve this knowledge. He is a curator and forum moderator on the global biodiversity citizen science platform iNaturalist. Although much of his research involves analyses of citizen science data, Thomas has published research across a wide range of disciplines, including marine forensics, bushfire recovery and invertebrate ecology. As part of the Environment Recovery Project team, Thomas received the Department of Industry, Science and Resources’ 2022 Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

Booking Link:

Lunchtime talks are held at 12.30 pm every Thursday from February to November.  Talks last for 1 hour.  We welcome donations by gold coins, notes, or electronically. The Friends use donations received at each talk to support Gardens’ programs and development and thank all those who have donated.  Please note: unless otherwise indicated, talks are in the ANBG Theatrette.

It is a good idea to reserve a seat at the talks that you wish to attend; several talks are booked out very quickly.  Bookings can be made from the Friday before the talk until Wednesday night before the talk or until seating limits are reached. 

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The Friends of the ANBG thank the speakers who volunteer their time and talents to further the knowledge of all attending events in the Gardens. Some summaries or PowerPoint presentations of Thursday talks are available to Friends at the ANBG library. Please direct queries about the talks to the Thursday Talks Team: email

The talks are in line with COVID-19 guidelines which can change rapidly.