Allan Mere Award for 2018:

Dr Ilse Breitwieser

Left: Dr Ilse Breitwieser, recipient of the Allan Mere for 2018. Photo: © Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.
Right: Anthony Wright presenting the Allan Mere to Ilse Breitwieser, 19 Sept 2018.

“Ilse is a plant taxonomist and systematist of high standing. Over the past thirteen years she has made an outstanding contribution as science leader of the National Land Biota Systematics Portfolio. Ilse’s drive and dedication has maintained a functional Allan Herbarium, botanical expertise in most plant groups, a range of plant informatics services and an exceptional research programme resulting in several Flora volumes and 56 family treatments towards the eFlora launched in 2011.”

The NZBS Committee is pleased to announce that this year’s award of the Allan Mere is to Dr Ilse Breitwieser, Manaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Lincoln. Ilse was nominated by Patrick Brownsey and Wendy Nelson, supported by four regional Botanical Societies (Otago, Canterbury, Wellington and Auckland), NZPCN, and 15 individuals, including ones from the following organisations: DoC, Te Papa, MPI, Massey University and the Australian Academy of Science. The proposers included:

As Science Leader Ilse was responsible for determining research priorities, maintaining partnerships with other agencies, and attracting funding. She used an Advisory Board of end-user groups to ensure that only the highest priority plant systematic research was undertaken. She also tried to retain capabilities across major plant groups, and to maintain the services of the Allan Herbarium. It is to her immense credit that in a period when funding declined in real terms, she managed to maintain a functional herbarium, botanical expertise in most plant groups, a range of plant informatics services and a research programme that continues to deliver exceptional outputs… The main achievements in plant systematics have been the Flora volumes – two volumes on Lichens (2007), the first of four volumes on Liverworts and Hornworts (2008), and the Flora of the Cook Islands (2016). The electronic Flora was launched in 2011 and is available both online and as downloadable pdfs. There are 35 family treatments for mosses, 17 for ferns, and four for vascular plants (, with work progressing on Veronica and Carex. There is also a Weed Profile that provides information and images for numerous species of potentially invasive plants. A huge amount of information on poorly documented plant groups has been made available, and Ilse has regularly promoted the Flora series nationally and internationally… We want to acknowledge Ilse's outstanding stewardship of plant systematics in New Zealand over the last 13 years. Without her firm resolve, commitment to the highest standards of scholarship, and belief in the long-term value of plant taxonomy and systematic capability, it is likely that staff and resources in systematic botany would have been eroded still further.

A selection of comments below from her supporters indicates the wide support of Ilse and the projects she has been involved in over the last 13 years:

Ilse was a key person integral to the development of the Outcome Based Investment (OBI) approach to a large and integrated research endeavour to define New Zealand's Terrestrial Biota. This meant integrating plant, invertebrate and micro-organism systematics and collections and involving multiple institutions. Ilse took on overall leadership of the OBI and this meant increasing interaction with end users and other stakeholders … Ilse has been prepared to move systematics into new approaches with her ability to attract good staff and retain them during challenging budgetary environments. She embraced the need to digitise collections and the published products and her support for the e-Biota will be a lasting legacy.
She has also been a long standing and active member of the NZ National Herbarium Network … an active member of the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria (CHAH) where her advocacy helped to establish the Australasian Virtual Herbarium, and to secure funding for imaging of collection specimens.
I strongly believe that the Allan Mere should be rewarded to recipients who ‘work outside the box’, that is people who do exceptional work outside their required tasks within their employment agreements. Ilse has done this but notably, because she has never sought recognition, public acknowledgement or praise, her ‘additional’ work has scarcely been noticed…. It is because Ilse doesn’t seek the public recognition that I feel the New Zealand Botanical community owes her this long overdue recognition.
Ilse is also hands down one of the most exceptional science leaders in New Zealand, with a style that is both fearless and peerless … Her various leadership roles are so important and yet often are “invisible” or behind the scenes.
She has made very substantial contributions to New Zealand taxonomy and systematics, in her previous capacity as Portfolio Leader of Landcare Research’s Characterising Land Biota portfolio, as an Executive Member of the Council of Heads of Australasian Herbaria, more recently as a Council Member of the International Association of Plant Taxonomy, and above all as a taxonomist and systematist of high standing. Her professionalism, leadership, and dedication to the field of taxonomy and systematics are exemplary, as are her advocacy for, and representation of, New Zealand botany on a world stage. On a more personal note, Ilse is one of the most engaging, delightful and caring people in our science community. On many occasions I've had cause to value her humour, insight, supportiveness, sound judgment, and good company. Our discipline is strengthened, lightened, and made more convivial by having Ilse in it.

Congratulations Ilse, and now that you have stepped down to go back to being a researcher, we look forward to your progress with your revision of Craspedia.

President Anthony Wright, on behalf of the Society presented the Allan Mere to Ilse at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Lincoln, on 19th September 2018.

Ewen Cameron, Secretary, New Zealand Botanical Society

Citation reproduced from the New Zealand Botanical Society Newsletter, No. 133, Sept 2018 and No. 134, Dec 2018.