2020 Kessel Award Winners: Corey Tarwater, Ryan Germain, & Peter Arcese

Over the course of this spring and summer, we’ll be highlighting all of the previously announced recipients of this year’s AOS awards on the blog. This week, the 2020 Brina C. Kessel Award.

Every two years, the American Ornithological Society bestows the Brina C. Kessel Award for a paper published during the preceding two years in The Auk: Ornithological Advances that has made an exceptional contribution to ornithology. The Kessel Award for 2020 is presented to Corey Tarwater, Ryan Germain, and Peter Arcese for their paper “Examination of context-dependent effects of natal traits on lifetime reproductive success using a long-term study of a temperate songbird,” published in 2018.

The Mandarte Island population of Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia), first studied by Frank Tompa and later by Jamie N.M. Smith and then Peter Arcese, has made countless contributions to ornithology, ecology, behavior, and evolutionary biology. It represents one of the finest, if not the finest, long-term study of a single populations of bird in North America. The present contribution by Tarwater et al., based on nearly four decades of information on individual probability of surviving to breed and lifetime reproductive success of a fully marked population, showed that survival and lifetime reproductive success were heavily affected by a suite of natal characters, but that maternal age and inbreeding coefficient affected both traits. Population density, which can vary tremendously from year to year at this site, interacted with inbreeding such that negative effects of inbreeding were more apparent in years of low population density. Low individual lifetime reproductive success was associated with being relatively inbred, raised by a young mother, hatching late in the season, and low body condition just prior to fledging. Fundamental and possibly most important was the conclusion that natal traits had life-long influences on fitness, and that with the exception of effects of inbreeding, the effects of other natal traits were insensitive to variation in population density.

This year, the AOS Publications Awards Committee felt that three additional papers deserved recognition as runners-up for the Kessel Award: “Sex differences in migratory restlessness behavior in a Nearctic–Neotropical songbird” by J.E. Deakin, C.G. Guglielmo, and Y.E. Morbey; “Vision in an abundant North American bird: The Red-winged Blackbird” by E. Fernandez-Juricic, P.E. Baumhardt, L.P. Tyrrell, A. Elmore, S.T. DeLiberto, and S.J. Werner; and “The evolution of vocal duets and migration in New World warblers (Parulidae)” by L.R. Mitchell, L. Benedict, J. Cavar, N. Najar, and D.M. Logue, all published in The Auk in 2019.

Given in even-numbered years and consisting of a cash prize of $1,000, the Kessel Award is given in honor of Brina Kessel, former President of the AOU (1992-94) and beloved leader and mentor in ornithology.

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