14 July 2016 (Thursday) – Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) Research Fellow Dr Saw Leng Guan was awarded the prestigious Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) Medal on 11 July for his excellence as a taxonomist, his contribution to the understanding of Malaysian biodiversity and his key role in conservation initiatives over 30 years.
RBGE is a leading international research organisation delivering knowledge, education and plant conservation action around the world.
The medal, awarded in recognition of an outstanding individual’s contribution in any field related to the work of the RBGE, was first presented in August 2010 to Dr Edward Edmund Kemp, a former RBGE Curator and Scotland’s Senior Horticulturist. Kemp, who first came to RBGE as a student gardener in 1932, received the honour days after celebrating his 100th birthday. He was cited as someone who had made an “immense contribution to horticulture in Scotland, and in particular at RBGE”.
The only other recipients were Sir Timothy Bartel Smit (2011), Prof. Dr Vernon Hilton Heywood (2013) and Prof. Dr Peter Hamilton Raven (2015).
RBGE Director Prof. Simon Milne presented the medal to Saw at the opening ceremony of the five-day 10th International Flora Malesiana Symposium held at RBGE, said it was “highly appropriate” that the award should be made to someone who inspired through leadership and expertise.
Saw retired as the Director of FRIM Forest Biodiversity Division in 2015 and appointed this year as a FRIM Research Fellow to serve as the coordinator of the monocotyledons for the Flora of Peninsular Malaysia.
Saw, a Taiping-born botanist with 34 years of experience working on plant taxonomy, ecology and the conservation of Malaysian flora, received his Bachelor of Science (Forestry) from Universiti Pertanian Malaysia in 1981. He obtained his Master of Science (Pure and Applied Plant and Fungal Taxonomy) from the University of Reading in 1990 and his Doctor of Philosophy, also from the same university, in 1994 for his study “The taxonomy and ecology of the genus Licuala (Palmae) in Malaya”.
He began working for Forest Research Institute (FRI) in 1982, serving as a Hill Forest Silviculturist, then as a Forest Botanist before being promoted as a Senior Research Officer in 1990 and later became the Programme Director of the FRIM Tropical Forest Biodiversity Centre in 2004.
He has published over 130 papers in journals, articles and chapters in books; and described 57 plant taxa. In his honour, four species of plants had been named after him—Begonia lengguanii, Orchidantha lengguanii. Schizostachyum lengguanii and Thrixspermum lengguanianum.
He has served as a member of the national and international committees; such as the Multidisciplinary Expert Panel member of Intergovernmental Science Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES); board member of the International Flora Malesiana Foundation and advisory panel for the Botanical Research and Herbarium Management System (BRAHMS).
He is also the editorial board member for jounals, namely Kew Bulletin, Journal of Tropical Ecology, Pertanika Journal of Tropical Agriculture Science and Blumea.
Saw is also the recipient of the British High Commissions Chevening Scholarships Scheme and the National Book Award 2012 for the publication of “Wild Orchids of Peninsular Malaysia”. He is the fourth FRIM scientist to be appointed as a fellow to the Academy of Sciences Malaysia in 2013, following the footsteps of the first FRIM Director General (DG), Tan Sri Dr Salleh Mohd Nor; the second FRIM DG, Dato’ Dr Abd Razak Mohd Ali; and the former FRIM Deputy DG, Dr Francis Ng.