Allan Mere Award for 2017:

Paul Champion

Left: Paul Champion, recipient of the Allan Mere for 2017.
Right: Paul and Anthony Wright following the award ceremony.

Paul is an outstanding botanist with over 30 years’ experience in plant ecology, biosecurity and conservation of endangered species, especially in freshwater and wetland habitats, and has authored over 200 publications. He is passionate about communicating and sharing his botanical knowledge, giving talks, running workshops and leading field trips with professionals and amateurs alike.

The New Zealand Botanical Society Committee is pleased to announce that this year’s award of the Allan Mere is to Paul Champion, Principal Scientist and Programme Leader (Aquatic Plants and Freshwater Biosecurity) at National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

Paul was nominated by the Waikato Botanical Society, with supporting letters from the Auckland, Rotorua, Wellington and Nelson Botanical Societies, the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network, the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute, the Department of Conservation, and the Northland, Auckland and Hawkes Bay Regional Councils.

Paul Champion is an outstanding botanist with over 30 years’ experience in the field of plant ecology and has authored over 200 significant publications during this time. He has specialist expertise in biosecurity, plant ecology and conservation of endangered plant species, especially in freshwater and wetland habitats.

Paul began his career in New Zealand as curator of the Waikato University Herbarium (WAIK) in the 1980s. He was instrumental in resurrecting the Waikato Botanical Society and served five years as its President; he still runs popular field trips and gives talks.

In 1988, Paul joined the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and quickly became one of New Zealand’s foremost authorities on aquatic and wetland plants. He was awarded the Peter Ingram Award by the New Zealand Biosecurity Institute in 2007. He has also been recognised internationally, presenting the Council of Australasian Weed Societies address in 2010, receiving an International Contribution Award from the US Aquatic Plant Management Society in 2016, and being invited to present this year’s plenary address to the International Conference on Aquatic Invasive Species on New Zealand and South Pacific Aquatic Biosecurity.

In addition to his weed research, policy and advisory work, Paul has led research projects determining the threats to various endangered plants including Trithuria inconspicua, Sebaea ovata and Amphibromus fluitans, and management techniques to conserve them.

A labour of love for Paul has been the co-authorship of the indispensable ‘Common Weeds of New Zealand’, now in its third edition, and ‘Common Grasses, Sedges and Rushes of New Zealand’. Paul has produced a range of other plant identification guides and keys including a Saltmarsh Plant Field Identification Guide (2013), the web-based Macrophyte Identification Guides, Freshwater Pests of New Zealand (also web-based), taxonomic keys to wetland sedges and rushes, and most recently he authored the web-based ‘New Zealand Rushes’ (Juncus): a field identification guide.

Paul is passionate about training and has always been generous in sharing his botanical knowledge. He regularly runs workshops on plant identification and management for agencies, scientists, students and amateurs alike.

Paul Champion has made an outstanding contribution to botany in New Zealand with an unusual breadth of knowledge in being both an expert in weeds and threatened plants, along with the full freshwater ecosystem spectrum. This makes him a fitting candidate for the award of the Allan Mere for 2017.

 Anthony Wright presented Paul with the Allan Mere at a Waikato Botanical Society meeting held 7th December 2017.

Anthony Wright, President, New Zealand Botanical Society

Citation reproduced from the New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter, No. 129, Sept 2017 and No. 130, Dec 2017.