Every year, the American Ornithological Society presents a range of awards honoring members for their research and volunteer work. The work of the 2020 awardees spans a diversity of ornithological disciplines from genetics to landscape ecology in a range of habitats around the world, as well as invaluable service to AOS and ornithology. This year’s slate of awardees represents just a small sample of the broad diversity of our members and the contributions they are making to the scientific study and conservation of birds.
“In 2020, we once again have the pleasure of recognizing the impressive talent and incredible achievements of ornithologists at both early and senior career stages,” says AOS president Kathy Martin. “Presenting the achievements of the award winners for this year provides a ray of sunshine as we contemplate living with current global challenges.”
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 2020, AOS is continuing the tradition begun last year of presenting two separate Brewster Medals, one to Regina Macedo and one to John Rotenberry. Dr. Macedo, Associate Professor in the Department of Zoology at Brazil’s University of Brasilia, is being recognized for her pioneering role as an avian behavioral ecologist in Brazil and her achievements in the fields of sexual selection, the evolution of cooperation and sociality, and communication systems in Western Hemisphere Neotropical birds. Dr. Rotenberry is Professor Emeritus of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at the University of California, Riverside and is currently an Associate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and he is being recognized for his major contributions to our understanding of the community ecology of the birds of shrub-steppe ecosystems.
The 2020 Elliott Coues Achievement Award, recognizing outstanding and innovative contributions to ornithological research, will also be presented to two separate recipients, André Dhondt and Tom Smith. Dr. Dhondt, the Edwin H. Morgens Professor of Ornithology at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, has made major contributions to the study of the ecology of hole-nesting birds and of disease dynamics in the wild. Dr. Smith, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California at Los Angeles, is known for his contributions to our understanding of the speciation and distributions of tropical birds, with a focus on how diversity is generated and maintained in tropical rainforests.
The 2020 Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award, honoring extraordinary conservation-related scientific contributions by an individual or small team, will be presented to Jaime Collazo. Dr. Collazo is a Professor of Applied Ecology at North Carolina State University and Assistant Unit Leader for NC Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research and has made immense contributions to almost every aspect of avian conservation in his native Puerto Rico for more than 40 years.
The 2020 Loye and Alden Miller Research Award, given annually for lifetime achievement in ornithological research, will be presented to Erica Nol. Dr. Nol, a Professor in the Biology Department at Canada’s Trent University, has an international reputation for her work on the ecology and conservation of migratory shorebirds and songbirds in the Western Hemisphere and is considered one of the top avian ecologists in Canada.
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 2020 James G. Cooper Early Professional Award will be presented to Nick Mason. Currently an NSF postdoctoral fellow at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California-Berkeley, Dr. Mason has an exemplary record of service to AOS, and his publication record includes well-cited papers on Horned Lark plumage adaptation, redpoll transcriptomics, and tanager signal evolution.
Two Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Awards are being presented in 2020, one to Sara Kaiser and one to Jennifer Walsh. Dr. Kaiser is a Research Ecologist and the Director of the Hubbard Brook Field Ornithology Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where her research focuses on the ways in which the environment affects the evolution of complex social behaviors. Dr. Walsh is a postdoctoral associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and has studied the behavior, ecology, conservation, and genomics of Saltmarsh and Nelson’s sparrows, addressing nearly every aspect of their biology.
The Marion Jenkinson Service Award and Peter R. Stettenheim Service Award are given to individuals who have performed continued, extensive service to AOS.
The 2020 Marion Jenkinson Service Award will be presented to Michael Butler. An Associate Professor of Biology at Lafayette College, Dr. Butler’s record of service to AOS and the former Cooper Ornithological Society and American Ornithologists’ Union includes extensive involvement in the Society’s annual meetings, judging student presentation awards, organizing symposia and social events, and chairing sessions. Dr. Butler joined the AOS Membership Committee in 2015 and has chaired the committee since 2016, and as part of his work with the committee he co-authored a paper in The Auk: Ornithological Advances in 2016 summarizing society member survey data to help guide the society’s strategic planning process.
The 2020 Peter R. Stettenheim Service Award will be presented to Susan Haig. Currently a Senior Scientist Emeritus with the USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Center, Dr. Haig has served the AOU and AOS in numerous ways, including chairing both the Membership Committee (1999–2002, continuing as a member until 2006) and the International Affairs Committee (2002–2004, continuing as a member until 2010) and serving as an Elective Councilor (2009–2010) and later President of the AOU (2012–2014). Perhaps one of Dr. Haig’s most influential roles has been as the AOU representative to a committee that evaluated the possibility of forming a federation of ornithological societies, the early seeds of an effort that culminated six years later in the merger of the AOU and COS to create AOS.
The 2020 Katma Award, given to the author(s) of a publication in any journal that offers unconventional ideas or innovative approaches in the study of birds, will be presented to Mikus Abolins-Abols and Mark E. Hauber for their paper “Host defences against avian brood parasitism: an endocrine perspective,” published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B in 2018. Abolins-Abols and Hauber argue that progress in answering lingering questions about birds’ defenses against brood parasitism will come through a fresh perspective provided by an endocrinological approach that identifies the proximate mechanisms underlying host behavior.
The 2020 Brina C. Kessel Award, given in even-numbered years to the author of an outstanding paper published in the two preceding years in the AOS journal The Auk: Ornithological Advances, will be presented to Corey Tarwater, Ryan Germain, and Peter Arcese for their 2018 paper “Examination of context-dependent effects of natal traits on lifetime reproductive success using a long-term study of a temperate songbird.” This paper, based on a long-running study of a Song Sparrow population on an island off the coast of British Columbia, 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.