Member Profile: Dr Leonie Scriven

Leonie Scriven is a member of HMAA SA and is based in Adelaide where she works as Deputy Director of Living Collections at the Botanic Gardens of Adelaide. June Taylor prepared this profile.

When Dr Leonie Scriven describes her early life, it is clear she has always possessed a strong and powerful connection with nature and all that it stands for. Even as a young child, Leonie had an uncanny love for plant, animal and marine life. This passion has remained with her right throughout life.

Her happy and idyllic childhood growing up in the western suburbs of Adelaide included collecting shells and feathers as well as riding her bike to explore creeks and parks. Pocket money was spent mostly on purchasing plants for her bedroom.

These childhood ventures held her in good stead for her future as Deputy Director of Living Collections at the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium. Along the way she achieved a BSc (Hons), a PhD and various business qualifications including a Graduate Diploma of Business Administration and is a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (GAICD). She is also Board Director, BGANZ Inc and a member of the Executive Committee of HMASA.

Leonie’s early influencers relating to environment and nature were her loving parents however, in high school, she gained inspiration from her science teacher, who made the subject come alive for her and her fellow students, many of whom went on to university.

“Good teachers are so powerful in creating capability, inspiration and the quest of dreams in the next generation,” Leonie says.

Leonie is a humble compassionate person, who says she feels privileged to be able to work in the world of botanic gardens. “There are amazing people doing incredible work for the benefit of the people, plants and the planet,” she explains.

Leonie has lived and worked in Hobart and Darwin but claims Adelaide is home and always will be.

“The culture and event opportunities here are second to none although Hobart has beautiful gardens, amazing wilderness and winter snow while Darwin’s dry season is a well-kept secret with plants that grow so fast,” Leonie adds.

The love of learning, the love of science and curiosity at an early age set the path for Leonie to become a botanical scientist. Not many people know that she is also a palaeobotanist and spent many years digging up plant fossils from sand and coalmines for research and to find their nearest living relative. Leonie is still publishing scientific papers on these studies as a hobby.

Leonie also won several university scholarships as well as photographic and short story competitions.

She has scuba-dived in 13-degree C waters with seals and sharks in the name of research, flown in helicopters over wetlands in search of rare plants, and on expeditions has been bitten by ticks and numerous leeches. It’s all in the name of research and science!

“You have one body, one life and one chance – make the most of them. The beauty of empowering others is that your own power is not diminished in the process and if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, and then you are a leader. Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. The only impossible journey is the one you never begin!” Leonie claims.

In regard to HMAA, Leonie believes that by sharing ideas and information everyone can make a difference. “Plants are important to everyone and have a place in everything we do although we don’t always know how. Without plants, life as we know it wouldn’t exist,” she concludes.

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