History, Philosophy + the Social Sciences


Hope Leeson

As a botanist, with nearly 30 years of field experience in southern New England, Hope's feet and eyes have traveled over most of the state of Rhode Island. Her many years of determining where the edge of a wetland lies, searching forests for rare and unusual plants, mapping locations where invasive plants have become established, and consulting with landowners on habitat management have contributed to her intimate knowledge of Rhode Island's natural areas and plant communities. Her work experience has included employment for the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, United States Fish and Wildlife Service RI Refuge Complex, and several environmental engineering firms (Vanasse, Hangen, Brustin and Applied Biosystems) where she coordinated permitting through state and federal regulatory agencies. Additionally, she has consulted for and been employed with numerous non-profit organizations (Rhode Island Wild Plant Society, New England Wildflower Society, The Nature Conservancy-RI, Save the Bay, and the Rhode Island Natural History Survey) all dedicated to documenting Rhode Island's rare plant populations, native plant communities, and invasive species, as well as providing public education on these topics.

Hope's long-term commitment to Rhode Island's native plant communities has earned her respect among the staff at state and federal agencies, as well as recognition throughout southern New England for her botanical knowledge and dedication. Most recently, as coordinator of the RINHS's Rhody Native™ Initiative, Hope applies her understanding of native plant communities and plant growth habits to the sustainable procurement of wild collected seed, propagation, and consultation with land managers for successful habitat restoration.

Hope enjoys sharing the native plant world with anyone who will listen, and in addition to leading countless walks, has taught adult courses through the New England Wildflower Society, field botany at the University of Rhode Island, and currently teaches a class in Botany in the RISD Liberal Arts Division. Teaching at RISD allows her to tap into past artistic pursuits, which included earning a liberal arts degree from Brown University, where she majored in painting.