He may be humble but honours have come the way of horticulture expert Murray Dawson.
It’s 8.15pm on a Tuesday and Murray has helped his brother move furniture, is writing up minutes for an earlier meeting, and is working on a website he’s volunteered to run for 30 years.
As a Botanist and Science Communicator, researcher and volunteer, it would seem he doesn’t know the meaning of work-life balance, but his work is a way of living and speaks to what motivates him.
A PSA member since starting out as a technical trainee nearly 40 years ago at the then Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), Murray’s career as a public servant isn’t just about his paid work at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.
“Because I came from a more practical and technical background, I have enjoyed writing more popular articles based on science, this is the real outreach.”
Murray’s outreach extends to schools and work as a volunteer for many organisations. He helps run iNaturalist NZ – Mātaki Taiao, and is the longest serving member on the executive of the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture (RNZIH).
He’s also webmaster for the RNZIH, the NZ Botanical Society and Friends of Christchurch Botanic Gardens.
His work in schools has focused on invasive plants in their local areas and has taken him across the country.
“I find weeds quite interesting. They can be really quite beautiful in their own right.”
Presently, Murray is working on non-invasive varieties of the plant people love or loathe: agapanthus.
He’s also a fan of trees from the Myrtacae family which includes beloved plants like the pōhutukawa and mānuka. These indigenous species are susceptible to the fungal disease, myrtle rust. Murray is working on an identification tool to identify the host species to help monitor the disease.
Murray doesn’t do this work for the accolades, but he’s not short of them. Recently he was inducted as a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit. He’s also an Associate of Honour through the RNZIH.
“Although it’s nice to be personally recognised by these awards, and to have many hours of voluntary work acknowledged, I see them more as an accolade to botany and horticulture, and the dedication to these fields shared by many others too.”
In addition, Murray is a PSA delegate at Manaaki Whenua, seeing the value in supporting and advocating for his colleagues.
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