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.

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.

2019 Jenkinson Award Winner: Alice Boyle

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 Marion Jenkinson Service Award.

The Marion Jenkinson Service Award is given to an individual who has performed continued extensive service to the American Ornithological Society (AOS), including holding elected offices but emphasizing volunteered contributions and committee participation. The award honors Marion Jenkinson Mengel, who served the American Ornithologists’ Union as treasurer and in other capacities for many years, and consists of a framed certificate and an honorarium. The 2019 award is presented to Dr. Alice Boyle.

Alice is currently an Associate Professor in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. She earned a B.Mus. in viola performance at the University of British Columbia, then changed her career path to avian ecology, completing her Ph.D. in 2006 at the University of Arizona. Following her Ph.D., she spent the next five years on prestigious postdoctoral fellowships at the Universities of Western Ontario and British Columbia before taking up her present faculty position in 2012. While Alice has an impressive record of research achievement, with 34 publications in ecology and ornithology, she has also tirelessly served the Cooper Ornithological Society, American Ornithologists’ Union, and now AOS in the six years since she became a faculty member at Kansas State. From 2013 to 2016, for example she served on the COS Board, simultaneously serving on their Student Presentation Awards Committee and chairing their Publications Committee from 2014 to 2016. When the AOU and COS began to jointly publish The Auk and The Condor, she became co-chair of the societies’ joint Publications Advisory Committee. Alice continues to chair this committee today, and provided leadership throughout the merger of the two societies in 2016 and the transition to the new journal publishing partnership with Oxford University Press in 2018. She also chaired the committee to identify a new editor for The Auk in 2018.

In recognition of her outstanding and diverse service to AOS and its predecessor societies, the society is proud to name Alice Boyle as the recipient of the 2019 Marion Jenkinson Service Award.

Congratulations 2019 Student & Postdoctoral Travel Award Winners

This year, AOS is providing a record amount of travel funding — over $125,000 — to students and postdoctoral researchers attending our upcoming annual meeting in Anchorage, Alaska. These awards make it possible for early-career ornithologists who lack other funding sources to participate in our annual meetings, present their research, and take advantage of professional development opportunities. Congratulations to all of this year’s travel award recipients, and thank you to the awards committee for their hard work in evaluating the applications!

Continue reading “Congratulations 2019 Student & Postdoctoral Travel Award Winners”

2019 Katma Award Winners: Benjamin Winger, Giorgia Auteri, Teresa Pegan, & Brian Weeks

From left, Brian Weeks, Benjamin Winger, Giorgia Auteri, and Teresa Pegan.

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 Katma Award.

The American Ornithological Society’s Katma Award is intended to encourage the formulation of new ideas that could challenge long-held accepted views and possibly change the course of thinking about the biology of birds. This award, proposed and sponsored by Dr. Robert W. Storer, is to be given to the author(s) of an outstanding paper related to ornithology and published in any journal that offers unconventional ideas or innovative approaches, backed by a well-reasoned argument.

The American Ornithological Society is pleased to present the 2018 Katma Award to Benjamin M. Winger, Giorgia G. Auteri, Teresa M. Pegan, and Brian C. Weeks of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology for their paper “A long winter for the Red Queen: rethinking the evolution of seasonal migration,” which appeared in Biological Reviews in 2018.

Winger and his colleagues provide a cogent review of existing theories for the evolution of migration, but unlike previous authors, they identify migration as just one mechanism that organisms have evolved for dealing with seasonally inhospitable conditions; alternative strategies found in non-avian species include diapause and hibernation, and non-migratory birds possess a variety of other life history strategies for dealing with seasonal conditions as well. The capacity for flight clearly provided birds with the option of geographic escape, but Winger and his coauthors argue that if viewed as only one of several alternative strategies for winter escape, the fundamental connection between all “escape strategies” is to survive and breed in the same place following the return of favorable conditions. Benefits of breeding site fidelity are well documented, and given such benefits, the evolution of migration can be seen as an escape strategy that allows a bird to return to a former breeding location to draw on those reproductive benefits. Without such benefits, there is no selection to remain site faithful, and thus the authors see migration as a means by which organisms travel long distances to ultimately stay in the same place, just as hibernation allows an animal to emerge in spring to breed again in the same place. The authors’ perspective is “agnostic” regarding the geographic origins of migratory behavior (southern home or northern home), is strongly compatible with the importance of studying migratory connectedness between breeding and nonbreeding areas of seasonal residency, and can accommodate idiosyncratic migratory behaviors because migration is viewed as a highly labile trait, but one that comes with the baggage of the species history. Winger et al.’s contribution is an exciting new perspective on migration that justifies it acknowledgment as the 2019 Katma Award winner.

The Katma Award is given only when it is merited, no more than once a year. The award consists of approximately $2,500 plus a certificate and is presented at the annual meeting of the American Ornithological Society. A full explanation of the Katma Award was published in The Condor in 2003.