2019 Loye & Alden Miller Research Award Winner: A. Townsend Peterson

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 Loye & Alden Miller Research Award.

The American Ornithological Society (AOS) Loye and Alden Miller Research Award is given for lifetime achievement in ornithological research. Loye Holmes Miller and his son, Alden, left a remarkable legacy to the field of ornithology and to the Cooper Ornithological Society (COS). Together they sponsored 30 Ph.D. students, 28 in avian biology, and their students went on to train in turn a total of 166 scientists. Alden also made contributions to the COS and to ornithology as a long-standing editor of The Condor. This year, AOS is pleased to honor A. Townsend Peterson as the recipient of the Loye and Alden Miller Research Award.

Dr. “Town” Peterson is a University Distinguished Professor with the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a Senior Curator with the Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas. Town has made lifetime contributions in two major areas of ornithology. The first is the study of the alpha taxonomy of birds, especially the phylogenies of recently-radiated avian clades. Linked to this work have been studies of the basic biogeographies of bird distributions and regional variation in the composition of local avifaunas. His research has taken him around the world to complete detailed site inventories and to utilize natural history records from major scientific collections. Town is particularly well known for his contributions to understanding the biogeography of the birds of Mexico. The second major component of his research had been the study of the ecology and geography of species’ distributions. He has made important contributions to the techniques now widely used for modeling species’ ecological niches and geographic distributions, with diverse applications for a range of topics in ecology, including conservation planning, the biology of invasive species, and understanding transmission of zoonotic diseases in natural systems. 

Town has a distinguished record of research productivity that includes the book Mapping Disease Transmission Risk (2014, John Hopkins Univ. Press), the monograph Ecological Niches and Geographic Distributions (2011, Princeton Univ. Press), and over 530 peer-reviewed articles, including first-authored work in Science (1999, “Conservatism of ecological niches in evolutionary time”) and Nature (2002, “Future projections for Mexican faunas under global climate change scenarios”). His scientific legacy includes training of 16 M.Sc. students, 31 Ph.D. students, and 11 postdoctoral researchers, many of whom are now working at different international institutions around the world. He became an AOS Fellow in 2004.

For his lifetime contributions to the understanding of avian diversity and biogeography, AOS is proud to present the Loye and Alden Miller Research Award to Dr. Town Peterson.