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Researcher wins award for native plant study

Wed, 09 Jun 2004

Researcher wins lucrative award for native plant study

A Christchurch scientist has won an important honour for her research on bringing native plants back into our cities.Landcare Research scientist Helen Greenep has received the inaugural ZONTA / BRANZ Award.

The award,worth $75,000, will provide financial assistance to Ms Greenep whilst researching a PhD.Ms Greenep works as a technician at Landcare Research, curating the dicotyledon collection at Landcare Research's Allan Herbarium and providing plant identification services.

Her doctoral thesis will focus on finding out which New Zealand plant species are best suited to grow in built-up urban areas."My project idea involves matching native plants to available habitats in inner city areas, based on similarity to the plants' natural habitat.

Therefore, instead oftrying to restore original vegetation in urban areas where environmental conditions have been dramatically altered, my idea is to find native plants more suited to the new conditions. "My work will bridge the disciplines of plant ecology and landscape architecture. I want to help provide landscape architects with a much wider variety of native plants to use than they have at present.

My focus will be on smaller herbaceous plants, particularly those that are rare or threatened, have cultural significance, are aesthetically attractive, or can establish and disperse easily; or any combination of these traits!"I think the general public is slowly becoming more accepting of native plants in urban areas.

I can see around town that natives are starting to be used more often in peoples' gardens and in commercial landscaping."Building Research Association (BRANZ) manager Dr John Duncan says Ms Greenep's ideas are highly relevant to the quality of life of New Zealanders. "As our major cities have become more populated, the ability to understand and manage the 'green space' with native New Zealand plants will be very important, particularly to the building and construction industry."The convenor of the ZONTA / BRANZ award, Mandy Natusch, says Ms Greenep, a mother of two teenaged children, fits ZONTA's award criteria admirably.

"We were looking for an exceptional woman, one who not only contributes to her community but also helps others in the wider field of science, and for whom this award would be a means for further advancement.


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