Position: Botany Curator, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Dr Leon Perrie was interested in conservation and ecology when he began studying at Waikato University. During his first year, his coursework involved studying plants, and part of that course was learning about the different life cycles that plants have. Leon found plants fascinatingly odd when compared to animals, and this was where his interest in plants began.
His involvement and interest in ferns came a bit later. During his second year at university, he had to produce a herbarium collection – his own collection of dried pressed plants from all sorts of different plant groups including mosses, liverworts, ferns, conifers and flowering plants. Later on in his degree, he had to produce another herbarium collection, but this time, he was able to choose a particular plant group. Leon chose ferns as they were flat and were easy to press and dry and make specimens from. He’d learnt that from the first herbarium he’d made!
Leon went on to learn more about ferns during his PhD at Massey University. His project was on the taxonomy of New Zealand shield ferns, and he discovered that, rather than there being 1 species, there were actually 3.
Leon found that the more he learnt about ferns, the more interested he became. Being a Botany Curator gives Leon lots of opportunities to continue learning about ferns – through fieldwork and research. Learn more about his research into the hen and chickens fern (mouku or manamana) in A tale of two ferns.
I most enjoy going out into the field. I particularly enjoy seeing species of plants that I haven't come across before or finding species in areas in which they were not known previously.
On 24 January 2019 the 2018 New Zealand Journal of Botany Established Researcher Prize was awarded to Leon. This prize is awarded to authors who hold a record for research excellence and outstanding contributions to peer-review, and whose work has also been widely cited by researchers in other journals during this time period. Find out more here.
Read more about Leon’s field trips and his fern research on his Te Papa blog.
Read Leon Te Papa blog article Plant-based accessibility: A year-long race to photograph our botany collection describing how Te Papa is moving to moving to image as many specimens as it can.
This article is based on information current in 2010 and 2018.