2021 William Brewster Memorial Award Winner: Kathy Martin

Over the coming months, we will be profiling the previously announced winners of this year’s AOS awards in a series of posts on Wing Beat.


The AOS William Brewster Memorial Award recognizes the author or coauthors of an exceptional body of work on birds of the Western Hemisphere published during the past 10 years. Established in 1921, the award honors William Brewster, one of the founding members of the American Ornithologists’ Union, and consists of a medal and an honorarium. One of this year’s two awardees is Dr. Kathy Martin, who is being recognized for her important contributions to ornithology in the Western Hemisphere. 

For the past 28 years, Dr. Martin has held a joint position as a professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and as a Research Scientist (now Emeritus) with Environment and Climate Change Canada. Dr. Martin served as AOS President and has been previously recognized by the Society for excellence in ornithological research as an AOS Elective Member and Fellow. Over her illustrious career, Dr. Martin has contributed significantly to two major areas of ornithological research in the Western Hemisphere: the ecology and life history variation of arctic and alpine birds, and their ability to cope with extreme environments and climate change; and secondly, the formulation of the “Nest Web” as a concept focused on tree cavities as a keystone resource determining the structure and function of cavity nesting bird community dynamics, and how these communities are affected by forestry and other disturbances such as insect outbreaks and environmental variability. 

Since 1981, Dr. Martin has produced more than 230 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters with a focus on birds of the Western Hemisphere, and she is particularly well known for her work with ptarmigan having coauthored two species monographs in the Birds of North America (now Birds of the World) series (White-tailed Ptarmigan, no. 68; and Willow Ptarmigan, no. 369). She has also spent more than 20 years working on alpine songbird ecology in North and South America, and is currently coauthoring a book on Alpine Bird Ecology and Conservation (2022, Cambridge University Press).   

Dr. Martin’s career contributions to ornithology extend well beyond her research endeavors. To date, she has trained more than 35 graduate students and 20 post-docs, many of whom have continued into careers in ornithology. In addition to serving as AOS President, Dr. Martin previously served as an AOU Elective Councilor (2002–2006), and on different AOU committees (Awards, Membership, and Nominating Committees). In recognition of Dr. Martin’s long-standing contributions to the study of ornithology in the Western Hemisphere, her important contributions to avian research and outstanding publication record, and her mentorship of a large number of scientists who are continuing important work in the Americas, AOS is honored to award Dr. Kathy Martin a 2021 William Brewster Memorial Award.  

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