The Don McNair Herbarium
One man's passion
Dr Donald McNair was a Novocastrian who combined his career as an auto-electrician with an extraordinary passion for plant taxonomy and ecology. He was a meticulous collector of plant samples for almost 70 years, particularly the plants of the Port Stephens area.
He supported many academic and community initiatives to further botany including co-founding the Society for Growing Native Plants and helping to establish courses in botany at both TAFE and at the University of Newcastle.
Don was Botanist in Residence at the University in 1985 and an Honorary Research Associate from 1986 to 1993. He was a supporter of taxonomy and natural history illustration scholarships during his lifetime and, most significantly, donated his extensive collection of plant samples as a gift-in-kind to the University and worked with the University to establish a herbarium in his name during his life.
He also provided a generous bequest to the University to sustain the Don McNair Herbarium and to foster postgraduate research in plant systematics.
Don was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 1996, recognising his lifetime work in botany and his remarkable contribution to the Hunter community.
Don’s key goal for the Herbarium was to ‘record environmental and plant changes, particularly in response to climate change’. The impact of the Herbarium has now far exceeded that goal, having become an internationally-recognised teaching and research resource for plant taxonomy, ecology, biology, genetics and natural history illustration.