Celebrating Alberta's Plant Scientists - Lorna Allen

We advance our Celebrating Alberta's Plant Scientists series by featuring Lorna Allen, a well-known and respected botanist/ecologist in Alberta's conservation community.



Lorna has worked as a botanist/ecologist in Alberta for over 40 years. She was born and raised in Edmonton, and summers spent camping or at a multi-family cabin on Pigeon Lake led to a life-long love of exploration, hiking and photography. Lorna chose Botany as a field of study, and graduated with a BSc from the University of Alberta. After graduation, she worked in the University of Alberta Herbarium before accepting a position as the Botany Technician at the Provincial Museum. She learned much there under the kind tutelage of Julie Hrapko, before leaving to answer the call of travel.


After traveling through Europe and Africa, she returned to Canada and worked at outdoor education centres in Manitoba and Alberta. She eventually accepted a temporary position with the Alberta Natural Areas Programme, which turned into a 35+ year career in Alberta’s Protected Areas. The first years centred around inventorying Alberta’s Natural Areas. Exploring sites throughout the province, collecting unknown plants and then keying them out at night by Coleman lantern turns out to be a fine way to learn the flora!


Over the years, she was involved in all aspects of protected areas projects, from hands-on work like putting up signage to management planning, but primarily focussing on ecology and inventory. This allowed her to explore much of the province, from sites in the south like Writing-on-Stone to those in the far north including Colin-Cornwall Wildland. A highlight was participating as a member of the inventory teams that ventured into the large new remote wildland parks that were established through Special Places 2000.


Lorna was involved in the initiation of Alberta’s conservation data centre (first called ANHIC then later ACIMS), working first as the community ecologist and eventually taking on the role of coordinator. She worked on the Canadian National Vegetation Classification project, and many others.


Lorna has also participated in the development of many of the major background information projects on Alberta’s biodiversity. She was a member of the Natural Regions Committee that wrote “Natural Regions Committee 2006: Natural Regions and Subregions of Alberta.” She oversaw the Significant Landforms Project, working alongside the Alberta Geological Survey to develop the product “Significant Landforms of Alberta” (2014).


Lorna has volunteered with the Alberta Native Plant Council since its inception, serving as secretary for 20+ years. She continues to contribute articles to their IRIS newsletter. She was involved in the first edition of the Rare Vascular Plants of Alberta (2001) and has helped as a writer, expert reviewer and photographer for the 2nd edition, which is currently in press (expected spring 2022).


Since retiring, Lorna has co-written, with Linda Kershaw, the Vascular Flora of Alberta: An Illustrated Guide (2020) and upped her travel and photography activities. Her photographs are found in many of the plant and protected areas publications in Alberta and in on-line resources from regions much further afield. As an example, her photos illustrate over 200 species in African Plants - A Photo Guide (www.africanplants.senckenberg.de). And she continues to work on and update the Vascular Flora of Alberta, which is now in its third printing.