A TEAM of botanists from Oxford University's Plants for the 21st Century Institute will be carrying out a three-year expedition here to help catalogue Brunei's flora, the British High Commissioner told The Brunei Times recently.
"Oxford will be coming with what they call a Rapid Botanic Survey (RBS). We will catalogue the flora, but that's a big undertaking," said Rob Fenn while visiting scientists carrying out a wildlife study in the remote, untouched forests of Sungai Ingei.
Fenn said he knew of at least two scientists who will take part in the flora survey, which will be carried out at 300 sites in Brunei Dr William Hawthorne of Oxford's Department of Plant Sciences and his assistant.
Hawthorne was in the Sultanate in May this year to deliver a talk to the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, where he spoke on the RBS technique.
Using the RBS, individuals including students can be trained to take up to 1,500 specimens per day and label images of these.
The process involves the scientists collecting leaves and other parts of a plant, and using newspapers to press-dry the specimens before they are housed in the herbarium.
The British diplomat said that Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar was impressed with the technique and wanted to apply it in Brunei.
"But mainly, it is a technique which is now understood and owned by the Forestry Department itself with assistance from UBD (Universiti Brunei Darussalam)."
Fenn said RBS was "not some sort of a proprietary software" belonging to Oxford but something the world's top-ranked university was "happy to share" with Brunei.
"They will come and they will guide this work, and in particular, they will help catalogue it and display it," he said.
He added that the findings from the plant survey will complement the ongoing two-year Sg Ingei Faunal Biodiversity Survey led by UBD.
"That will be a nation-wide biodiversity audit."
Brunei has already started using an Oxford-developed online platform for its national herbarium in Sungai Liang, known as the Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System (Brahms).
This online system is being upgraded up to the year 2012, Fenn said, adding that he hoped data from Brunei's floral study would be uploaded onto Brahms by then.
"So that when you Google 'biodiversity'... you may well find Brunei at the top."
"It has long been my ambition to get Brunei a fair share of the Internet attention, given that this place is so famous for its biodiversity," said the high commissioner, who has been assigned here for nearly two years.
"What the Oxford (cooperation) does is provide the data to back up those historical claims."
The Brunei Times