Allan Mere Award for 2007:

Dr Peter Johnson

Anthony Wright presenting Peter Johnson with the Allan Mere and his citation as the 2007 recipient.

“Peter has had a distinguished career as a scientist, public lecturer, author and conservationist. Along with numerous research publications on weeds, wetlands and dune-lands, he has produced popular books on wetlands, wildflowers and flowering plants of New Zealand. He gives generously of his time, expertise and enthusiasm to the wider public. Peter is an exemplary botanist in the tradition of the world’s best naturalists.”

The NZBS Committee is pleased to announce that this year’s award of the Allan Mere is to Peter Johnson of Dunedin who has a long and distinguished career with DSIR Botany Division and Landcare Research, and continues to work on various ecological projects.

The main sponsors of the nomination were the Otago and Wellington Botanical Societies, strongly supported by southern botanists and organisations.

The selections of comments below are from the enthusiastic letters received:

Peter has had a distinguished career as a scientist, public lecturer, author, and conservationist. His early research focussed on neglected groups (mycorrhizal fungi) and habitats (wetlands and turf communities). These publications resulted in him being awarded the RSNZ Hamilton Memorial Prize (1977). Along with numerous research publications on weeds, wetlands, and dunelands, Peter has also produced popular books on wetland plants (Wetland Plants in New Zealand), naturalized species (Wildflowers of Central Otago), and specialist reference books (Flowering Plants of New Zealand with Colin Webb). Peter has routinely collected plant specimens from all over New Zealand, and these make a significant input to the Lincoln herbarium.
In addition to his major contribution to botany in New Zealand as a professional botanist of distinction, Peter has given most generously of his time, expertise and enthusiasm to the wider public over the last 37 years.
In his role as botanical watchdog Peter makes another valuable contribution to the community. With his extensive knowledge of the identification, ecology and distribution of weeds in New Zealand he is ever watchful for new or spreading invasions, and then widely sounds the alarm.
Books and articles both scientific and popular have informed, delighted and continue to reach out to a wide audience. The series of New Zealand Gardener articles are widely circulated, while the Wildflower and Wetland books are brought on many a society and university field trip, and are a valuable reference in home, university and public libraries.
Peter’s description of the vegetation of the Manapouri lakeshore in relation to the 32 year record of daily lake levels not only fulfilled the contract conditions with his BSc Honours report but also provided the basis for sustainable lake management within the natural range of lake levels, which was later needed after a satisfactory conclusion to the most significant eco-political debate in the country’s history. Peter published two definitive papers on the ecology of the Manapouri lakeshore…
On a personal level … I have come to appreciate how valuable Peter’s sharing of his knowledge has been. There will be few if any areas of Reserve, Coastal and Covenanted land on the [Otago] Peninsula that have not benefited from his botanical and practical advice.
Peter’s expertise extends beyond his scientific ability. Not only is he a renowned botanist and botanical photographer, he writes with clarity and is a superb communicator to the lay audiences especially on field trips. He has a depth of knowledge of an expert and an enthusiasm of a naturalist. He is an inspiration and a crucial guiding influence for conservation on the Otago Peninsula.
Peter’s early career was as a lecturer in bryology at Otago University. In the past decade he has made over 70 presentations to conferences, schools and interest groups, and led botanical tours to the Chatham Islands. He has provided training in natural history groups to guides on the Hollyford Track.
He has been an active member of the botanical fraternity since the late 1960s. During that time he has been a researcher, writer, adviser on ecology and plant management, and an educator. As important, in our view, he has inspired others to enjoy the New Zealand flora and to appreciate its ecological significance.
Peter’s many other contributions … are too numerous list but outstanding among them has been his assistance and collaboration with David Bellamy on the “Moas Ark” TV programme and accompanying book some time ago and, most recently his contribution to the conservation and wider appreciation of the ecology of the Chatham Islands, since becoming a member, now chair of the Chatham Island Conservation Board.
I’d like to record Peter’s expertise as a lichen observer. He has expert identification skills which he has used to produce reports on emissions around some of NZ’s largest industrial plants, e.g., the aluminium smelter at Bluff and Motunui synthetic petrol plant. He’s also NZ’s leading expert on aquatic lichens and has collaborated with international experts to describe new species and distribution records.
Peter is an exemplary botanist in the tradition of the world’s best naturalists. He has a brilliant eye for detail, a quirky sense of humour, a love of words, and a passion for New Zealand’s plants and landscapes. He’s a creative gardener and multimedia communicator. I’ll finish with one of his haiku, composed to describe the roadside scene throughout the southern South Island downwards:
Lolium and Trifolium
Laid out
Like green linoleum.”

The Mere presentation was arranged by the Otago Botanical Society.

Ewen Cameron, Secretary/Treasurer, New Zealand Botanical Society

Citation reproduced from the New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter, No. 89, Sept 2007 and No. 91, March 2008.