Professor Leanne Armand, ANZIC Director (1968-2022)
Professor Leanne Armand passed away on January 4th 2022, a premature end to an outstanding career as a micropalaeontologist and leader of marine geoscience that had culminated in her position as Director of the Australian and New Zealand International Ocean Discovery Program Consortium (ANZIC) and roles on peak bodies including the National Marine Science Committee.
Leanne will be remembered as an exceptional researcher, mentor and scientific leader who was completely and selflessly dedicated to the success of scientific ocean drilling and its importance to understanding Earth, and to supporting the careers of our new and emerging researchers.
Leanne was born in Adelaide, South Australia, in February 1968. Leanne by all accounts was naturally curious as a child, and was remembered for collecting shells from nearby beaches and other bits and pieces which she used to set up ‘museums’ at home. A keen interest in biology was fostered by teachers at St Mary's College in Adelaide and led to Leanne taking a major in biology at Flinders University. Leanne acquired a specific interest in palaeontology while undertaking undergraduate coursework and fondly recalled participating in digs run by Rod Wells and Peter Murray at Naracoorte Caves in South Australia, and Alcoota station in the Northern Territory. Leanne subsequently transferred to the Department of Geology at the ANU where she completed a BSc Honours degree under the supervision of Professor ‘David’ Ride researching Quaternary vertebrate fossils from Teapot Creek in the Monaro region of New South Wales.
Leanne stayed on at the ANU to pursue a PhD in the field of micropalaeontology, supervised by Prof. Patrick De Deckker and also by Dr Jean-Jacques Pichon of the University of Bordeaux. Leanne’s PhD research focused on using fossilised diatom species assemblages to determine past changes in sea-surface temperature and sea- ice extent in the Southern Ocean.
Leanne met her husband Stéphane during her Honours year and used the regular travel to the University of Bordeaux during her PhD to also visit Stéphane’s family, learn French and immerse herself in French culture. Leanne and Stéphane moved to France so she could finish writing her thesis and with the intention of this being a steppingstone to a postdoctoral position in Europe or possibly Nth America.
On completing her PhD, Leanne was offered a post-doctoral position at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystem Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC), at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. This saw Leanne and her family, which by then included a three-month-old son, return to Australia. Leanne was subsequently awarded an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship at IASOS (Institute of Antarctic and Southern Ocean Studies at the University of Tasmania) to reconstruct sea ice dynamics in the Southern Ocean over the past 190,000 years.
In 2007 Leanne became the first Australian recipient of a prestigious European Union Incoming Marie Curie Fellowship. Returning to France once more Leanne was hosted by the Université d’Aix-Marseille where she collaborated with Prof. Bernard Quéguiner. Leanne used this opportunity to expand her research to encompass living diatom communities of the Southern Ocean. She also used it to participate in the Kerguelen Island research mission (KEOPS), which aimed to understand natural iron-fertilisation of the oceans the how it stimulated diatom growth and impacted carbon export to the seafloor.
Leanne joined the Department of Biology at Macquarie University in Sydney in 2009, where she lectured in marine sciences and taught first-year skills-based biology courses. Leanne headed a team of phytoplankton researchers and students and rose to the level of Deputy Director of the MQ Marine Research Centre at Macquarie University.
Leanne was an effective and tireless advocate for early career researchers and women in science and was deeply invested in developing future generations of marine researchers and being a role model for female high school and undergraduate students. She regularly participated in CSIRO's Scientists in Schools program and was duly proud of her role in designing and directing the national Collaborative Australian Postgraduate Sea Training Alliance Network (CAPSTAN), a Master-level training program with the Marine National Facility on board the RV Investigator (2013-2017).
In 2018 Leanne was appointed the ANZIC Program Scientist and joined the faculty of the Research School of Earth Sciences at the ANU. Leanne rapidly set about invigorating the ANZIC community and transformed ANZIC’s standing and influence in the international ocean drilling program (IODP). Leanne quickly became a respected leader within the international scientific ocean drilling community, in her initial capacity as ANZIC Program Scientist and later as the inaugural ANZIC Director. Her contributions to scientific ocean drilling were profound and will be long lasting. Leanne stewarded the ANZIC community to make leading strategic contributions to the development of the international scientific ocean drilling communities’ 2050 Science Framework. This involved planning and leading ANZIC’s Ocean Planet Workshop in April 2019, a multidisciplinary effort that crystallised key themes of interest to the ANZIC Ocean drilling community, and provided significant scientific and conceptual input into the 2050 Science Framework.
Leanne authored more than 100 publications during her shortened career. In addition to the Marie Curie Fellowship, Leanne was awarded the Australian Academy of Science’s prestigious Dorothy Hill Medal in 2007. She received a U.S. Antarctic Service Medal in 2014 for the Sabrina Coast Mission on the RVIB Palmer and was the first Chief Scientist to conduct a Southern Ocean expedition on Australia’s then-new research ship, RV Investigator, in 2017. Leanne’s career achievements spanning research, teaching and service were recognized with promotion to Professor at the ANU in 2020.
Leanne’s premature departure at age 53 is a tragic loss for her husband Stéphane, two sons Maxime and Gaston, and other family.
Leanne expertise, energy, personal warmth, and enthusiasm were infectious and will be sorely missed by her friends, colleagues, ANZIC and IODP communities, and the fields of paleoceanography and marine geoscience. Nonetheless, her contributions will have enduring impact for generations to come, as will her contributions to the science of the Southern Ocean and diatom distributions and ecology, which will continue to guide and inspire future researchers.