The American Ornithologists’ Union presents five awards every year honoring members for their contributions to science and their service to the organization. The 2016 awardees were announced at this year’s landmark North American Ornithological Conference in Washington, D.C. Their work spans the full breadth of the field of ornithology, including contributions to ecology, conservation, behavior, and systematics.
The William Brewster Memorial Award, bestowed each year to the author or co-authors of an exceptional body of work on birds of the Western Hemisphere, is presented to Dr. Patricia Parker of the University of Missouri-Saint Louis and the Saint Louis Zoo. The last two decades of Dr. Parker’s forty-year research career have focused on the evolution, diseases, and conservation of the birds of the Galápagos Islands. She has made enormous contributions to ornithology through the development of creative new applications of DNA analysis while producing more than 180 publications and training and inspiring a broad array of students and professionals early in their career.
The Elliott Coues Achievement Award, recognizing outstanding and innovative contributions to ornithological research, is presented to Dr. Michael Sorenson of Boston University. Dr. Sorenson’s research focuses on the ecology of brood parasitism, and his drive to understand its origins has also led him into the study of molecular evolution and systematics; he is recognized as a leader in both fields. He is a highly productive and published scientist with broad influence in his field.
The Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award, recognizing extraordinary scientific contributions to the conservation, restoration, or preservation of birds and their habitats, is presented to Dr. John Fitzpatrick, head of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Under Dr. Fitzpatrick’s leadership, the Cornell Lab has grown into a force for conservation, with education and outreach programs that bring bird science to the public. His work on the ecology of Florida Scrub-Jays has helped slow the decline of this threatened species.
The Ned K. Johnson Young Investigator Award, recognizing work by an ornithologist early in his/her career who shows distinct promise for future leadership in the profession, is presented to Dr. Mary Caswell Stoddard. Having just completed a three-year Junior Fellowship with the Harvard Society of Fellows, Dr. Stoddard is moving on to an Assistant Professorship at Princeton University. Her research brings together collaborators from many fields to study the evolution and ecology of eggs, color, and mimicry.
The Marion Jenkinson Service Award, given to an individual who has performed continued extensive service to the AOU, is presented to Dr. James Herkert, Director of Resource Conservation, Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Dr. Herkert, recognized for his influential research on grassland birds, served as an outstanding and forward-thinking steward of AOU’s assets while treasurer of the society for nearly a decade.
Honoring their colleagues’ achievements is an annual highlight for the leadership of the AOU. “Given the breadth of ornithological literature published annually, it easy to lose sight of the magnitude of quality contributions from any one individual,” said Scott Lanyon, President of the society. “The AOU’s senior awards represent an opportunity to remind ourselves of just how enormous an impact some of our colleagues are having on the science of ornithology, on the broader conceptual scientific disciplines, and on the conservation of avian diversity.”
Learn more about AOU’s professional and service awards here.