2019 Painton Award Winners: Jason Carlisle, Anna Chalfoun, Kurt Smith, & Jeffrey Beck

From left, Anna Chalfoun, Jeffrey Beck, Jason Carlisle, and Kurt Smith.

In the lead-up to our annual meeting in Anchorage, we’ll be highlighting the winners of this year’s AOS awards on the blog. This week, the 2019 Painton Award.

Every two years, the American Ornithological Society bestows the Harry R. Painton Award for a paper published during the preceding two years in The Condor: Ornithological Applications that has made an exceptional contribution to ornithology. The Harry R. Painton Award for 2019 is presented to Jason D. Carlisle (University of Wyoming and Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc.), Anna D. Chalfoun (US Geological Survey and University of Wyoming), Kurt T. Smith (University of Wyoming), and Jeffrey L. Beck (University of Wyoming) for their paper “Nontarget effects on songbirds from habitat manipulation for Greater Sage-Grouse: Implications for the umbrella species concept,” published in 2018.

The authors addressed what is likely to become an increasingly important issue in avian conservation: do efforts to mitigate and improve conditions for an “umbrella” species actually benefit other “background” species that share their habitat? The authors used a rigorous before-after control-impact design over a three-year period to determine whether management of habitat for the habitat specialist Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) would benefit a trio of songbird species that co-occur with sage-grouse by comparing songbird abundance, nest density, and nest success before and after mowing of sagebrush intended to improve brood-rearing habitat for sage-grouse. The authors showed that mowing benefitted the non-sagebrush specialist Vesper Sparrow (Pooecetes gramineus), but that the sagebrush-steppe dependent Brewer’s Sparrow (Spizella breweri) and Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) experienced a different fate. Sage Thrasher abundance declined after habitat modification for sage-grouse, while nest abundance dropped to zero for both Brewer’s Sparrow and Sage Thrasher in managed (mowed) habitat. Ultimately, the authors caution that a more “nuanced” view is needed that considers the varied responses of species syntopic with so-called umbrella species and that long time scales are likely needed to evaluate fully the utility of the umbrella species concept.

This year, the AOS Publications Awards Committee felt that two additional papers deserved recognition as runners-up for the Painton Award: “Migratory connectivity of Semipalmated Sandpipers and implications for conservation” by S. Brown, C. Gratto-Trevor, R. Porter, E. L. Weiser, and 19 others, and “Island life and isolation: The population genetics of Pacific Wrens on the North Pacific Rim” by C.L. Pruett, A. Ricono, C. Spern, and K. Winker, both published in The Condor in 2017. The Harry R. Painton Award is given in odd-numbered years and consists of a cash prize of $1,000; funds for the award come from a bequest from Mr. Painton. A list of previous Painton Awardees can be found at americanornithology.org/content/aos-painton-award.