Each 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 2021 awardees ranges across the spectrum of ornithological science, from genetics to conservation to ecology, and includes invaluable service to AOS and ornithology. This year’s awardees represent the broad diversity of our members and the contributions they are making to the scientific study and conservation of birds.
“One of the great pleasures of being President of the AOS is to recognize the exceptional contributions of our members to the success of our Society and to the success of ornithology as a whole,” says AOS President Mike Webster. “AOS is indeed fortunate to have such amazingly talented and dedicated members, and at both early and more advanced career stages. I am both humbled and proud to be in such great company. Congratulations to all!”
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 2021, AOS is presenting two separate William Brewster Memorial Awards; one to Dr. Marty L. Leonard and one to Dr. Kathy Martin. Dr. Marty Leonard is Professor of Biology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she has also been an administrative leader as the Dean for the Faculty of Graduate Studies and as an Acting Dean for the Faculty of Science. Dr. Leonard is being recognized as a distinguished scientist who has made major contributions in two areas of ornithology: the behavioral ecology of breeding birds, and the conservation of endangered birds in Atlantic Canada. Dr. Kathy Martin is a professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and Research Scientist Emeritus with Environment and Climate Change Canada. For more than 40 years, Dr. Martin has contributed significantly to two major areas of ornithological research in the Western Hemisphere: ecology and life history of arctic and alpine birds, and the community dynamics of cavity-nesting birds and how they are affected by forestry and natural disturbances. 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.
The 2021 Elliott Coues Award, recognizing outstanding and innovative contributions to ornithological research, will also be presented to two separate recipients, Dr. Peter Arcese and Dr. Bruce Beehler. This year, the AOS recognizes the creative and broadly applicative work of Dr. Peter Arcese, Professor and the Forest Renewal Chair in Conservation Biology in the Department of Forest and Conservation Science at the University British Columbia, as worthy of a Coues Award. Dr. Arcese’s research program emphasizes comparative and experimental tests of population demographic, genetic, and conservation theory using long-term studies of bird populations of the Pacific Coast of North America, East and West Africa, and the Northern Andes of South America. Dr. Bruce Beehler is a Research Associate of the Bird Division of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History, whose contributions to tropical biological research are extensive, including ground-breaking fieldwork on the ecology, behavior, and systematics of the birds-of-paradise; and ornithological expeditions and conservation initiatives in New Guinea, India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Dr. Beehler is a prolific scientific and popular writer who has contributed greatly to popularizing ornithological science through his books, papers, field guides, monographs, blogs, and other publications, as well as public lectures, op eds, and news broadcast appearances.
The 2021 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: the Bird Ecology Group (BEG) of the Faculty of Biology, University of Havana, Cuba, led by Dr. Martin Acosta Cruz, and to Dr. Francesca J. Cuthbert of the University of Minnesota. The BEG in Havana has been conducting research, education, and conservation efforts since 1978, and have contributed significantly to the knowledge and conservation of Cuba’s avifauna. Dr. Cuthbert has worked on a wide array of waterbird conservation projects but has spent more than 30 years guiding the work to recover the near-extinct Piping Plover population of the Great Lakes region. Dr. Cuthbert’s work has led to recovery of the Great Lakes Piping Plover population and has provided a critical link between the Northern Great Plains and Atlantic populations that will help bolster all three populations.
The 2021 Loye and Alden Miller Research Award, given annually for lifetime achievement in ornithological research, will be presented to Dr. Tony D. Williams, Professor of Ecological and Evolutionary Physiology in the department of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University. Dr. Williams has made major contributions to the study of avian physiology, focusing his research on physiological adaptations for breeding in birds, and ecotoxicology of wildlife species through his work with the Centre for Wildlife Ecology and Environment 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 2021 James G. Cooper Early Professional Award will be presented to Dr. Ana Gonzalez, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Environment and Climate Change Canada; and to Dr. Benjamin Van Doren, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Dr. Gonzalez is being recognized for her outstanding publication record and her many accomplishments in conservation biology, including establishing important conservation agreements to maintain critical habitat for birds, and the widespread training of biologists in six countries on bird banding and tracking. Dr. Van Doren’s research on threats to migratory birds has informed several complementary areas of the biology of migration. His contributions, as a science communicator, to Birdcast.info have garnered more than two million views, and he has published three papers in The Auk (now Ornithology) and has reviewed 32 papers for various scientific journals, both extraordinary achievements for Dr. Van Doren’s career stage.
Two Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Awards are being presented in 2021, one to Dr. Luis Sandoval and one to Dr. Sahas Barve. Dr. Sandoval is an Assistant Professor and Curator of the Ornithology Collection at Universidad de Costa Rica Escuela de Biología and Museo Zoología. He is widely respected for his work promoting diversity in the field of ornithology, and is recognized for a record of prolific scholarship, mentorship, and teaching for his career stage. Having published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers within six years of his Ph.D., Dr. Sandoval’s scholarly work is largely about natural history, vocal behavior, and the avifauna of Costa Rica. Dr. Barve is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History who is known for his scholarly work as well as his exceptional record of service to AOS. Dr. Barve’s research, which is focused on numerous aspects of behavioral ecology and eco-physiology of birds with an emphasis on Himalayan birds, has had demonstrable and wide-ranging impacts in both India and North America. Dr. Barve has mentored 19 undergraduate and seven graduate students representing five countries.
The 2021 Marion Jenkinson Service Award will be presented to Dr. Sara Kaiser, a Research Ecologist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Director of the Hubbard Brook Field Ornithological Program. Dr. Kaiser’s record of service to the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) and the Cooper Ornithological Society (COS), now AOS, is extensive. Dr. Kaiser served as a judge for the Student Presentation competitions from 2014–2016, and as a member of the Early Professionals Committee (EPC) for the AOU, eventually chairing the AOS EPC from 2016–2019. She revitalized society efforts to support AOS members early in their career stages and helped develop the EP Mini-talk Symposium at the annual meetings. She further extended her service to the Membership Committee (member 2016–2018; Chair 2019) and to the Meeting Coordination Committee (2017–2019), and in 2019, was elected a member of AOS Council.
The 2021 Peter R. Stettenheim Service Award is being presented to Dr. Fred Sheldon, a Professor in the Biology Department at Louisiana State University where he is the George H. Lowery, Jr., Distinguished Professor of Natural Science. Dr. Sheldon’s extraordinary and lengthy service to AOS, AOU, and COS spans several decades, beginning in 1993, when he first served as AOU Treasurer. He has since served as Vice President of the AOU (2002–2003), and on numerous AOU committees including the Finance Committee (1993–2003), the Publications Committee (2001–2003), the Student Awards Committee (2002–2003), the Scientific Program Committee for NAOC in 2002, and the Development Committee, which he chaired from 2003–2004. Dr. Sheldon served as an Associate Editor for The Condor (2008–2013), and The Auk (1999–2003), and presently serves as an Associate Editor for Ornithology.
The Harry R. Painton Award is presented in odd-numbered years and recognizes the most outstanding article by a single or multiple author(s) published in the journal Ornithological Applications (previously The Condor) over the preceding two-year period. This year’s award is presented to Walter Piper and co-authors Jason Grear, Brian Hoover, Elaina Lomery, and Linda Grenzer for their 2020 publication, “Plunging floater survival causes cryptic population decline in the Common Loon.” In their paper, Piper et al. show that, although territory occupancy of Common Loons (Gavia immer) in Wisconsin has not changed over the course of their 27-year study, total population size (breeders + floaters) has declined. Assuming that similar cryptic declines in floater populations exist in other loon populations for which positive estimates of population growth rate exist, this paper raises concerns and emphasizes the need for increased attention to this little-studied segment of the population.
The 2021 Katma Award, recognizing a published work in any peer-reviewed journal that offers unconventional ideas or innovative approaches in the study of birds, will be presented to W. Alice Boyle, lead author of the 2020 paper, “Hygric niches for tropical endotherms,” co-authored with E.H. Shogren and J.D. Brawn and published in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. This paper provides an expanded view of the importance of the hygric niche and attempts to conceptually refocus our thinking to consider the role of seasonality of precipitation for the biology of birds and its influence on geographical distributions, reproductive patterns, and, ultimately, survival in a world of inevitable climate change.
The new Wesley Lanyon Award, established by the Lanyon family to honor Wesley “Bud” Lanyon who served as the 37th President of the AOU, will be bestowed every two years to an early-career ornithologist who authors the best synthesis/review open-access paper on avian science published in either AOS journal. The inaugural Wesley Lanyon Award award is presented to Jennifer A. Linscott, a Ph.D. student at the University of South Carolina, for her paper, “Beyond refueling: Investigating the diversity of functions of migratory stopover events,” co-authored with Nathan R. Senner and published in Ornithological Applications. In their paper, Linscott and Senner clearly articulated programs of future research, providing an integrative review of stopover during migration, a widespread phenomenon where most attention has previously been focused on the importance of migratory refueling. The authors discussed how advancing technology has assisted and will assist stopover research moving forward.
The new 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), and, in Ornithological Applications (even-numbered years) by an early-career AOS member. The inaugural Florence Merriam Bailey Award is given this year to Dr. Megan Garfinkel, lead author of the paper, “Birds suppress pests in corn but release them in soybean crops within a mixed prairie/agriculture system,” published in Ornithological Applications in 2020. Garfinkel and her co-authors, Emily Minor and C.J. Whelan, demonstrate the potential impact of birds on row crop fields in heavily agriculturalized settings, showing that corn yield was greater in plots open to bird foraging, but greater in soybean fields from which birds were excluded. Dr. Garfinkel’s research demonstrates the potential role of birds in herbivore pest control, a vastly understudied aspect of the agroecosystems.
The Kessel Fellowship for Ornithological Research, now in its second year, recognizes early early-career professionals conducting ornithological research currently published in peer-reviewed journals. This year’s fellowship is presented to Dr. Michelle Roper for her project: “The role of the syrinx in the evolution of complex male and female songbird vocalisations: disentangling the effects of morphology, ecology and life-history traits,” which is being conducted through specimen study at Massey University, University of New Zealand, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Australian National Wildlife Collection, with additional specimens from other institutions and wildlife rescue centers. Dr. Roper’s research will focus on the syrinx structure of the family Meliphagidae (honeyeaters) to determine the importance of sex differences on vocal complexity and identify the morphological, ecological, and life-history traits that have led to evolution in vocal complexity for honeyeaters.