2019 Early Professional Award Winners: Karan Odom, Kyle Horton, & David Toews

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 Early Professional Awards.

The American Ornithological Society (AOS) is pleased to announce Dr. Karan Odom, Dr. Kyle Horton, and Dr. David Toews as the 2019 recipients of the society’s Early Professional Awards, the James G. Cooper Early Professional Award and the Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Award.

The James G. Cooper Early Professional Award recognizes early-career ornithological researchers (through the end of their third year post terminal degree) for their outstanding contributions in any field of ornithology. First awarded in 2009 by the Cooper Ornithological Society, this award recognizes early-career researchers for outstanding scientific research and contributions to the ornithological profession. The 2019 James G. Cooper Early Professional Awards are presented to Dr. Karan Odom and Dr. Kyle Horton.

Karan is currently an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Mike Webster’s lab at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Her research focuses on the evolution of elaborate traits, specifically song, in female as well as male birds. She combines large-scale phylogenetic comparative methods and field studies to evaluate the evolutionary pressures that have led to similar songs in males and females of some species and strong dimorphism (including loss of female song) in other species. She began her ornithological career under the mentorship of Jed Burtt as an undergraduate at Ohio Wesleyan University and then went on to complete her M.S. with Dan Mennill at the University of Windsor and her Ph.D. with Kevin Omland at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Karan is also a co-founder of The Female Bird Song Project, a citizen science initiative aimed at increasing female bird song recordings in biological collections. Karan is very interested in promoting women in science, which she does through extensive mentorship of young women researchers and joining her colleagues in pointing to the prominent role women scientists have played in discoveries about female bird song. She was selected as an Elective Member of AOS in 2017.

Kyle is currently a Rose Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology; he is working on leveraging remote-sensing tools, like radar, to better understand how many migrants fill the nighttime airspace, determine where and when migrants are impacted by artificial light, and how radar can be used to forecast and mitigate these impacts. He received his B.S. in Biology from Canisius College in 2011, where his interest in ornithology and migration ecology was sparked while working alongside Sara Morris. He completed his M.S. in Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in 2013 with Jeffrey Buler and his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Oklahoma in 2017 with Jeffrey Kelly. His work has been published in a broad range of journals and has been covered by NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Science, Nature, and many other media outlets. Kyle works on BirdCast, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology program aimed at making migration forecasts accessible to scientists, conservationists, and bird watchers alike. Kyle will be joining Colorado State University as an assistant professor in fall 2019.

The Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Award recognizes work by an ornithologist early in his or her career (four to seven years post terminal degree) who shows distinct promise for future leadership in the profession. The American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) established this award in 2006 to honor Ned K. Johnson, a lifelong supporter of the AOU and its former president (1996–1998). The 2019 Ned K. Johnson Early Investigator Award is presented to Dr. David Toews.

David joined the Biology Department at Pennsylvania State University in January of 2019. His lab utilizes genomic tools to address questions about avian evolution, and identifying the genes that underlie important ecological traits, such as plumage or migration behavior. His work has mostly been focused on New World wood warblers and hybrid zones between closely-related warbler species.

David was most recently a postdoctoral researcher in Irby Lovette’s lab at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where he held an NSERC Postdoctoral Research Fellowship and a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship. At Cornell, David worked on several research projects, including understanding the genomic consequences of extensive hybridization between Golden-winged and Blue-winged warblers. David also contributed to teaching at Cornell, including a weekly graduate discussion group focused on “non-model genomics” as well as undergraduate field courses to the Galapagos and Patagonia. David obtained both his M.Sc. and Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia, under the supervision of Darren Irwin. There he studied behavioral, physiological, and genetic interactions among subspecies of Yellow-rumped Warblers and between Pacific and Winter wrens. David is passionate about avian natural history and conservation as well as translating evolutionary biology research to a broad and diverse audience. Awardees receive a cash prize, travel funding to attend the annual AOS meeting, and a framed certificate, and are invited to present plenary talks at the meeting. In recognition of their outstanding work in the early years of their careers, AOS is pleased to recognize Dr. Odom, Dr. Horton, and Dr. Toews with this year’s Early Professional Awards.