Lucy Cranwell

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I learned this week that I am the sole recipient of the 2018 Lucy Cranwell scholarship, provided by the Auckland Botanical Society and it is an incredible honour. The scholarship provided funding for me to employ the summer research assistant who made my field work not just possible but hugely productive and enjoyable.

I want to tell you a bit about the name behind the scholarship so that you will understand why the joy of receiving this scholarship extends beyond the prospects of making my research possible financially. Lucy Cranwell was born on the 7th of August 1907 in Auckland, New Zealand. In 1925 she undertook a BA degree in English and Botany, followed by a masters in Botany with a thesis on the epiphytes of the Waitakare Ranges. All through her studies, she used her spare time to explore the NZ great outdoors, and had a reputation as the strongest, fastest walker in the University Field Club.

Lucy Cranwell

At the age of 21 Lucy Cranwell became the first botany curator of the Auckland Museum and used that position to inspire in a younger generation a love for New Zealand plants with things like “botany trots” for children, books and newspaper articles.

She was a field botanist in a time when this was largely unheard of for women, and when conditions were a great deal more tough. Her friend and colleague Lucy Moore record instances where they would camp out in the open in canvas sleeping bags and wake up covered in frost.


In World War II Lucy Cranwell contributed to the war effort by producing a booklet titled “Food Is Where You Find It: A Guide to Emergency Foods of the Western Pacific” to assist soldiers and downed pilots to find safe sources of food in unfamiliar territories.

Food is where you find it

Lucy Cranwell is certainly one of New Zealand’s influential women, paving the way for women in science, like me. I am grateful to the Auckland Botanical Society for not only providing funding for my research, but also giving me cause to learn about an inspiring woman, Lucy Cranwell.

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