Allan Mere Award for 2011:

Dr Wendy Nelson

Wendy Nelson, recipient of the Allan Mere Award for 2011. Photo: © Royal Society of New Zealand.

“Dr Wendy Nelson is a leading international expert in marine macroalgae (seaweeds) and coastal ecology, and an outstanding scientist with a stellar research and science leadership record. She is also an engaging and dedicated teacher and mentor to up-and-coming phycologists and amateurs. Wendy is a talented botanist, a skilled taxonomist and an outstanding advocate for science.”

The NZBS Committee is pleased to announce that Wendy Nelson, NIWA, Wellington, has been awarded the Allan Mere for 2011. Wendy receives the award for her leadership and exceptional work on the taxonomy, ecology and conservation of New Zealand’s marine algae.

Peter de Lange and Clinton Duffy nominated Wendy and the proposal was supported by Landcare Research colleagues: the late Murray Parsons, Phil Novis, Ilse Breitwieser; DOC colleagues: Carol West, Don Neale, Rod Hitchmough; Museum colleagues: Ewen Cameron from Auckland; Leon Perrie, Jenn Dalen and Patrick Brownsey from Te Papa. In addition, three Botanical Societies supported the nomination: Wellington (Wendy’s home BotSoc), Nelson and Auckland.

The range of agency representation above reflects Wendy’s career as a scientist who has worked for DSIR, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and now NIWA, as well as completing nine years of service on the NZ Conservation Authority and chairing the Algal Threat Listing Panel administered by DOC. A selection of comments below from the proposers and supporters indicates the breadth of Wendy’s contribution to botany.

Dr Wendy Nelson, a leading international expert in marine macroalgae (seaweeds) and coastal ecology, is an outstanding New Zealand scientist with a stellar research and science leadership record. She is Principal Scientist at NIWA and co-leads the Marine Biodiversity and Biosecurity Outcome Based Investment research programme. Her excellent and influential research on marine macroalgae is internationally and nationally highly regarded.
Wendy is not only a remarkable scientist but she is also a dedicated teacher and mentor of many up-and-coming phycologists and amateurs with an interest in macroalgae. Wendy is the first port of call for anyone interested in these plant groups in New Zealand and, despite her extremely heavy workload, she is always quick to help anyone who has an interest in these plants.
Wendy has engaged people in marine algae in myriad ways: workshops, fieldwork, taxonomic services, conferences, popular media, scientific research and publication. She encourages others in the field by generously giving her own time to others’ endeavours and interests.
Because of Wendy, WELT’s marine macroalgal collection is the best curated and most significant in New Zealand. Wendy has collected nearly 20% (>4,500 specimens) of WELT’s marine macroalgal specimens, which is nearly twice that of any other individual. Furthermore, Wendy is listed as the determiner for nearly a third of WELT’s marine macroalgae (c. 7,000 specimens), which is a clear indication of her unique expertise; others cannot do the same job.
Wendy is New Zealand’s No. 1 authority on the taxonomy of marine algae – esteemed and respected, and indeed, famous here and abroad. Wendy’s scientific papers are numerous and based on meticulous research of the highest order, which has been recognised in her being made a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
Wendy is a very talented botanist, extremely hard-working, a very clear strategic thinker, always sharply focussed on the objectives she wants to achieve, but also someone motivated by a wider view of the benefits of science to society and the environment. She has an engaging personality and a great respect for the skills of those who work alongside her. She also has a broad understanding of science issues and has proved to be an excellent advocate for science in New Zealand at every level from school education to Government task force.
Dr Nelson is an internationally recognised botanist of the highest calibre, specialising in marine macroalgae. Her work has been and continues to be critical to our knowledge of this very significant, yet under-appreciated, component of the New Zealand flora.
Wendy has been an energetic and articulate advocate at the highest levels for biodiversity, for the science of taxonomy, and for the professional development of taxonomists.
As well as contributing to the distributional and taxonomic knowledge of seaweeds, Wendy has realised the importance of seaweed conservation and the serious threats that exotic seaweeds can pose to our marine ecosystems. She has worked with biosecurity and conservation officers to highlight these issues and find ways of addressing them.
Wendy has been a strong role model for women in science and, in 1996, received the ZONTA Woman Scientist Award.
Although I have dwelt on Wendy’s work with marine flora, I must acknowledge that she has broader interests, which include lichens and general botany. In the earlier days of the New Zealand Botanical Society, Wendy was editor of the Newsletter.
Wendy is an outstanding botanist with an enviable research record, a strong advocate for New Zealand science, and a wonderful ambassador for the scientific community on any stage.

Wendy received the Allan Mere at the monthly Wellington Botanical Society meeting on 21st November with Anthony Wright making the presentation.

Carol West, New Zealand Botanical Society committee member

Citation reproduced from the New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter, No. 105, Sept 2011.