Every year, the American Ornithological Society (AOS) presents a range of awards honoring members for their ornithological research and their service to the Society. The work of the 2022 awardees ranges across the spectrum of ornithological science, from conservation to ecology to evolution, and includes invaluable service to the AOS and ornithology. This year’s awardees represent the highest quality contributions by our members to the scientific study and conservation of birds.
“I am constantly amazed with, and excited by, the great work being done by AOS members to better understand and conserve birds,” AOS President Mike Webster says of these awardees. “It is a great honor to recognize ‘the best of the best’ for their incredible work, from late-career scientists with a large body of work, to those just beginning careers that are clearly destined to be exceptional. I am proud to be working alongside these amazing ornithologists.”
Senior Professional Awards
The William Brewster Memorial Award is given each year to the author or coauthors of the most meritorious body of work (book, monograph, or series of related papers) on birds of the Western Hemisphere published during the past ten years. In 2022, the AOS is presenting two William Brewster Memorial Awards; one to Dr. Amanda Rodewald and one to Dr. Roxana Torres.
Dr. Rodewald is the Garvin Professor and Senior Director, Center for Avian Population Studies, at Cornell University. Her contributions to our understanding of avian population and community responses to changes in land use, climate, and invasive species have been vast. Her broad interdisciplinary approach integrates population, community, and landscape ecology with conservation biology to address pressing conservation challenges, particularly for forest birds, in both temperate and tropical landscapes. Dr. Rodewald has published more than 170 scientific papers, including in Science, Nature Communications, Global Change Biology, and PNAS, many of which have been widely cited. She has also co-edited an ornithology textbook, Ornithology: Foundation, Analysis and Application (2018, Johns Hopkins University Press) and written more than 60 popular articles and commentaries.
Dr. Torres is a researcher at the Instituto de Ecologia Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and a prominent avian evolutionary ecologist who uses seabirds as model systems for studies of the physiological and behavioral basis of sexual selection. She investigates various aspects of mate choice, sexual signaling, parental care, senescence, and associated life-history trade-offs, focusing on sulids, the bird family comprised of gannets and boobies. Her research uses a combination of field experiments, genomic and physiological analyses, as well as long-term behavioral, reproductive, and population data. She has published more than 70 papers, including in Ecology Letters, Proceedings B, Biology Letters, and The American Naturalist.
The 2022 Elliott Coues Award, recognizing outstanding and innovative contributions to ornithological research, will also be presented to two separate recipients: Dr. Bruce Lyon and Dr. Bridget Stutchbury.
Dr. Lyon is a professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz. He has a stellar academic record spanning 45 years and is particularly well-known for groundbreaking work on conspecific brood parasitism, parental care, and sexual selection. His long-term studies on American Coots and Black-headed Ducks have become classic textbook examples for instructors of ornithology and behavioral ecology. Dr. Lyon’s research interests are diverse, thorough, and span a range of other species, including shorebirds and passerines. The innovative nature of his work is reflected by a body of highly cited papers in top journals, including papers in Nature, Science, PNAS, American Naturalist and Functional Ecology. An approach of “quality over quantity” is reflected by Dr. Lyon’s clever experiments, insightful field observations, and a deep understanding of ecological and evolutionary theory.
Dr. Stutchbury is a Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Biology at York University. She has made outstanding and innovative contributions to our understanding of the ecology and conservation of migratory and neotropical songbirds. Dr. Stutchbury is widely known for her research on avian mating systems, including work to understand the evolution of extra-pair mating in socially monogamous species such as Tree Swallows, Purple Martins, and Hooded Warblers. She also pioneered the use of light-level geolocators to track songbird migration. The use of this innovative technology has revolutionized the study of migratory strategies, carry-over effects, and migratory connectivity. Her landmark 2009 paper in Science, which introduced this new technology, has been cited nearly 500 times. Over her 37-year career, Dr. Stutchbury has published 120 peer-reviewed papers and three books, one of which, Silence of the Songbirds (2007; HarperCollins), was a 2007 finalist for Canada’s Governor General’s Literacy Award for nonfiction.
The 2022 Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award, honoring extraordinary conservation-related scientific contributions by an individual or small team, will be presented this year to two separate awardees: David Ainley, Senior Ecologist with HT Harvey & Associates and Point Blue Conservation Science; and Drs. Lindsay Young and Eric VanderWerf of Pacific Rim Conservation.
Dr. Ainley is a prominent seabird biologist, having worked on marine ecosystems for more than 40 years. His research foci include the Farallon Islands’ ecosystem and marine ornithology in California, as well as his long-term studies of Adelie Penguin foraging and breeding biology in Antarctica. His work has uncovered the genetic impacts of calving icebergs on the population structure of penguin colonies and the competitive interaction of krill-foraging specialists in Antarctic waters, all aspects that are severely impacted by global change. Dr. Ainley has published four books and ~300 peer-reviewed scientific and policy articles, including in Science, Nature, and PNAS. Generations of seabird biologists who have worked with Dr. Ainley as assistants, collaborators, and colleagues have benefited from his knowledge and training.
Drs. Lindsay Young and Eric VanderWerf of Pacific Rim Conservation are being recognized for the sustained success of their conservation actions combined with their publication, individually and together, of a significant body of research on bird conservation and the biology of birds (notably on the Laysan Albatross and Hawaiʻi ʻElepaio). Their long-term study of Hawaiian seabirds and land birds, combined with planning and execution of effective conservation actions, have helped to protect vulnerable breeding birds in Hawaiʻi. Conservation projects led by Pacific Rim Conservation encompass a range of techniques including acoustic survey and population monitoring, habitat restoration, chick fostering and translocation, social attraction, predator-proof fencing, and predator eradication. Their diverse conservation projects on multiple islands have reduced predation on, and improved habitat for, multiple species of breeding Hawaiian seabirds and land birds and established new breeding colonies of several vulnerable seabird species. Drs. Young and VanderWerf are the authors of multiple scientific articles, book chapters and reports, and co-authors of a forthcoming book, Conservation of Marine Birds (July 2022; Elsevier), on the factors influencing seabird conservation.
The 2022 Loye and Alden Miller Research Award, given annually for lifetime achievement in ornithological research, is presented to Dr. John Wingfield, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior at the University of California, Davis. Dr. Wingfield has been an internationally recognized leader in avian field biology and comparative endocrinology for almost 50 years, and through the 1970s–80s he helped pioneer the new research area of field endocrinology—the measurement of hormone levels in free-living animals. Dr. Wingfield is a highly prolific researcher with more than 330 published research articles. A total of 26 of his papers have been cited more than 200 times and four more than 500 times (including an influential 1998 paper in American Zoologist on the Emergency Life History Stage, currently with 965 citations). Many of his former students now occupy faculty positions at universities across North America. Dr. Wingfield has made numerous novel contributions to science, a few of which include work in stress physiology (with the development of the ‘standardized stress protocol,’ which is still widely used); the ‘Challenge Hypothesis‘ (1990; The American Naturalist) to explain comparative variation in androgen levels; and the concept of ‘allostasis,’ which provided a paradigm shift in our understanding of stress. Dr. Wingfield served as president of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (2003–2005) and president of the XXV International Ornithological Congress (2006–2010), as well as serving as National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Biological Sciences.
Early Professional Awards
The James G. Cooper Early Professional Award and the Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Award are presented annually to recognize outstanding and promising work by researchers early in their careers.
The 2022 James G. Cooper Early Professional Award will be presented to Dr. Stepfanie M. Aguillon, postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. Dr. Aguillon, who received her Ph.D. from Cornell University, impressed the award committee with her mini-paper on the genetics of reproductive isolation, her notable research accomplishments, including the publication of 11 peer-reviewed papers in renowned journals including The Auk: Ornithological Advances, Proceedings B, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, and PLOS Genetics; also among her peer-reviewed publications are two papers on pedagogy. Dr. Aguillon has delivered excellent talks at AOS annual meetings and demonstrates leadership within the Society through her active engagement in AOS activities and her advocacy for strong mental health supports for graduate students.
Two Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Awards are being presented in 2022, one to Dr. Benjamin Freeman and one to Dr. Allison Shultz.
Dr. Freeman is a Banting and Biodiversity Research Centre postdoctoral fellow in Dolph Schluter’s lab at the University of British Columbia. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University. He has published more than 50 papers, many of which have been well-cited and generally influential in biogeography, evolutionary ecology, and global change biology. Two of Dr. Freeman’s papers on elevational range shifts used ~40-year resurveys of mountain slopes in New Guinea and Peru, respectively, to show how anthropogenic climate change is driving shifts in elevational ranges and causing local extinctions. Several of his papers have examined latitudinal and elevational variation in bird competitive dynamics, rates of evolution and speciation, the global taxonomy gradient, and rates of upslope range shift. He regularly publishes in highly regarded journals such as American Naturalist, Nature Ecology and Evolution, Proceedings B, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Ecology Letters, and Ecography, among others. He has also established himself as an exceptional science communicator, popularizing his science on Twitter through original rap songs that explain the research and findings in his papers (view his #RapYourAbstract videos on social media—where he raps the take-home messages from newly published papers—that have earned popular rapper MC Hammer’s admiration). Dr. Freeman is widely regarded as an emerging leader by early professionals in the AOS.
Dr. Shultz is Assistant Curator of the Ornithology Department at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, having received her Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2017, and master’s degree from San Diego State University. Dr. Shultz’s record of leadership within the AOS is exceptional. She deserves special praise for her outstanding contributions as the technology lead and producer of the 2021 AOS & SCO-SOC Virtual Meeting. Dr. Shultz has served on the AOS Meeting Coordination Committee, the Scientific Program Committee, and the Collections Committee. Dr. Shultz has published 23 peer-reviewed papers, which have been uniformly high in quality, and impressively varied in topic — she has studied and published on trait evolution, natural selection, developmental constraints, genomic underpinnings of traits, host-parasite coevolution, and invasive species introductions. Among her influential publications are: “A century of avian community turnover in an urban green space in Northern California,” published in The Condor: Ornithological Applications (2012); “The role of sexual and natural selection in shaping patterns of sexual dichromatism in the largest family of songbirds (Aves: Thraupidae),” published in Evolution (2017); and “Immune genes are hotspots of shared positive selection across birds and mammals,” published in eLife (2019).
The 2022 Marion Jenkinson Service Award is presented to Dr. Erin Morrison, Clinical Assistant Professor in Liberal Studies at New York University. Dr. Morrison received her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona. Since 2018, she has served as Volunteer Coordinator for the annual AOS conferences, including our two recent virtual conferences. In this role, Dr. Morrison has single-handedly recruited, organized, trained, and managed 50–75 volunteers annually. She and her team touch every aspect of our conferences—from registration, tech support, translation services, and session moderators, to socials and lively networking events—providing detailed instructional manuals for volunteers and moderators and instructional videos for presenters. Known for her incredible energy, motivation, and organizational skills, Dr. Morrison is driven by a strong sense of community-building and a desire to advance goals of diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and equity. The AOS is proud to sing Dr. Morrison’s praises for her behind-the-scenes work that ensures our conferences run successfully and continuously support the goal of fostering a more inclusive space for everyone involved.
The 2022 Peter R. Stettenheim Service Award is being presented to Melinda Pruett-Jones. Ms. Pruett-Jones received her M.S. from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, and is a long-standing member of the ornithological community. She has published research on birds in The Auk: Ornithological Advances, Evolution, Animal Behavior, Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, and Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Ms. Pruett-Jones is best known to the AOS in her role as the executive director of AOU/AOS, a position she held from 2014 to 2021. As the first (and first female) executive director of the AOS, Ms. Pruett-Jones worked tirelessly to achieve a successful and efficient transition to a new Society for the AOS’s two founding societies, the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society. As executive director, Ms. Pruett-Jones professionalized the AOS, expanded professional staff support for the Society, and was responsible for oversight and management of every aspect of Society business. She went far above and beyond her formal duties in service of the AOS. Under her leadership, the AOS transitioned to a new, more effective publication environment where the Society transitioned its journals online and changed the journals’ names to more clearly reflect their respective content. She also upgraded and modernized the Society’s association management system (AMS) database to more efficiently manage memberships, conference registration, member communication, and staff activities. Ms. Pruett-Jones created a strong media presence, redeveloping the Society’s website to better communicate with members and promote Society business, and expanding the AOS’s social media presence, leading to regular outreach through multiple communications platforms. Thanks to the vision and cool, calm leadership of Ms. Pruett-Jones, the AOS is becoming a modernized, vibrant Society, well-positioned to meet the future in service of ornithology.
The Florence Merriam Bailey Award, named for the first woman “associate” of the AOU (1885) and the first woman elected as a Fellow of the AOU (1929), recognizes an outstanding article published in Ornithology (odd-numbered years), or in Ornithological Applications (even-numbered years) by an early-career AOS member. This year’s award is presented to Amelia-Juliette Demery, fourth-year Ph.D. candidate, Sloan Scholar, Women Leader in Sustainability Fellow at Cornell University, and lead author of the paper, “Bill size, bill shape, and body size constrain bird song evolution on a macroevolutionary scale,” with co-authors Kevin J. Burns and Nicholas A. Mason, published in the journal, Ornithology. In their paper, the authors show a connection between 11 song variables of avian vocalizations in tanagers with specific vocal tract traits and tarsus length, bill size, and bill shape, in the evolution of bird song. Through this rigorous exploration of external morphology and song elements, the authors illuminated the modularity in which different traits affect different song elements, where body size, beak size, and beak shape act on specific facets of bird song. Furthermore, the paper also highlights the opportunities in coupling external and internal morphological analysis to further elucidate the role morphology plays in avian song evolution.