Maxwell/Hanrahan Botanical Art Studentship

A vacation studentship generously supported by the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation (USA)

Applications for this studentship are now closed

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) is seeking a motivated and artistically talented individual for a studentship in scientific botanical illustration.

This studentship is generously funded by the Maxwell/Hanrahan Foundation (USA). You will be in the third or fourth year of a Visual Arts degree at an Australian institution, have a relevant portfolio, and ideally a demonstrable interest in plant or fungal form and illustration. Candidates on science courses will be considered provided an appropriate portfolio of work is available.

One studentship is available and it is awarded for a nine-week period during December to February. Remuneration is $1,488 gross per week.

The student will work with our team of botanists and curation staff to produce scientifically accurate line drawings of specimens in Victoria’s State Botanical Collection, held within the National Herbarium of Victoria at RBGV's Melbourne Gardens.

The illustrations produced as part of this studentship are envisaged to accompany the species entries and keys to species featured in VicFlora.

The work calls for meticulous attention to detail and highly developed artistic skills to create black and white illustrations that are technically accurate, aesthetically pleasing and, critically, usable for identification. For many species it may be necessary to work exclusively from herborised (dried and pressed) material, sometimes requiring the illustration of microscopic details acquired through dissection beneath a microscope.

The incumbent will essentially translate their observations into an effective display format reproducible at different sizes.

Key accountabilities:

  • Produce accurate, diagnostic line drawings of specimens using pen and ink
  • Work closely with botanists to understand the relevant features of the subject material required for accurate identification
  • Follow general taxonomic guidelines for botanical illustration
  • Develop and implement a feasible work plan to ensure a schedule of delivery
  • Produce a portfolio of work that can be made publicly available at the end of the studentship

Key Selection Criteria:

  • It is preferable that the applicant be enrolled in a degree program in botanical illustration, illustrative art, or a directly related field
  • Strong drawing skills demonstrated by a relevant portfolio of works
  • Demonstrable knowledge of taxonomic terms, botanical anatomy and morphology, and an awareness of botanical nomenclature
  • Sound knowledge of design and display techniques
  • Excellent accuracy and attention to detail
  • Ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Proficiency in computer software for image editing and layout
  • A good understanding of printing and graphic technology (relating to reproducibility of work prepared) desirable
  • Effective communication skills

Suggested projects

Leafy liverworts: The leafy liverworts are a largely overlooked group of small plants that are represented by over 160 species in Victoria. Identification in this group of plants is heavily reliant on morphological variation of their small leaves. However, important information for species identification such as the three-dimensional arrangement and structure of these leaves is often difficult to capture in focus with photography. Illustrations provide a solution to overcoming these difficulties and the successful candidate will aim to produce illustrations of up to 40 Victorian species of liverwort. A single illustration comprising a ‘lateral’ leaf and its accompanying smaller ‘underleaf’ will be produced for each species using the stippling technique. Illustrations will be made from herbarium specimens with the aid of microscopes and technical assistance will be provided by RBGV Botanists. Illustrations will be used on the RBGV’s flora website, VicFlora.

Hypogeous fungi: The family Mesophelliaceae comprises ecologically important, morphologically unusual fungi endemic to Australia. The species play key roles as ectomycorrhizal symbionts and food for wildlife, and are important contributors to ecosystem recovery after bushfires. These fungi are subterranean, relatively small, tend to have complex internal morphology, and often incorporate sediment and roots directly onto the epidermis and/or into the cortical layers. These complications make useful illustrations of these fungi hard to come by. Major revisionary work on Mesophelliaceae is ongoing at RBGV; since photographs do not exist for most of these specimens, illustrations will help bring herbarium specimens to life (see e.g., Dell et al. 1990). Illustrations will include individual fruiting bodies or portions of fruiting bodies based on images taken from dissecting and compound microscopes. The illustrations will be included in scientific articles describing new Mesophelliaceae genera and species and provide new perspectives for existing species.

With clear justification, candidates may also propose alternative projects of personal interest for RBGV consideration, provided the outcomes contribute meaningfully to RBGV's existing plant identifications provisions (see e.g., keys to species on VicFlora).

To apply

For general enquiries about the studentship, contact Alastair Robinson (

Applications must include a curriculum vitae (including university transcript) with two named referees; a short cover letter (max. 500 words) explaining how the applicant would benefit from the studentship, contribute to identification provisions at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, and the reasons for their project preference; and a portfolio sample of up to 5 relevant illustrations.

Applications should be submitted in the form of a single PDF file and emailed to Dr Alastair Robinson, Manager Biodiversity Services, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, via, by 20 October 2023.