Public Release: 

American Ornithologists' Union honors 2015 awardees

Five individuals recognized for science and service

Central Ornithology Publication Office

Each year, the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), North America's leading ornithological society, presents five prestigious awards honoring members for their contributions to bird science and their service to the society. This summer at their 133rd stated meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, the society announced the awardees for 2015, representing an impressive cross-section of the field of ornithology. Their research spans the Western Hemisphere and demonstrates how time-tested field techniques are being combined with advances in areas like DNA sequencing to enhance our knowledge of birds. This year's winners are the following:

  • 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. Rosemary Grant, Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University. Dr. Grant began her work on natural selection in Galapagos Finches in 1973 with her husband, Peter Grant, and her 40+ years of research into the ecology of these species is chronicled in over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and five books, including multiple publications in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and Nature.

  • The Elliott Coues Achievement Award, recognizing outstanding and innovative contributions to ornithological research, is presented to Dr. Scott Edwards of Harvard University. Dr. Edwards is known for his work on the phylogeography of Australasian birds, the avian major histocompatibility complex, and coalescent approaches to assess gene versus species trees, and he has demonstrated a commitment to training diverse students at all levels and enhancing their careers.

  • 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. Joseph Wunderle, Jr., Wildlife Team Leader and Research Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. Dr. Wunderle is recognized for his applied research on many issues important to bird conservation, including human and natural activities such as hurricanes and drought, agricultural practices, and selective logging methods. His research, teaching, and service have had an enormous influence on conservation and ornithology throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

  • 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. Kyle Elliot, Assistant Professor at McGill University. Dr. Elliot's doctoral research focuses on seabird physiology and aging, focusing on banded populations in Alaska and northern Hudson Bay and showing that birds in his study species adjusted their foraging behavior to compensate for changes in their physical limits as they aged. He is the co-author of over 80 papers and has already had a tremendous influence on seabird science at this early stage of his career.

  • The Marion Jenkinson Service Award, given to an individual who has performed continued extensive service to the AOU, is presented to Dr. Thomas Martin of the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit and the University of Montana. As Editor-in-Chief of The Auk from 1995 to 2000, he made a series of changes that dramatically improved the quality of the journal. He later led a group of advisors who engineered a new publications model to excel in an era of rapid change in the publishing industry, resulting in the creation of the Central Ornithology Publication Office, through which the AOU co-publishes its journal in partnership with the Cooper Ornithological Society.

The leadership of the AOU takes great pride each year in honoring their colleagues' outstanding achievements. For more information on the AOU's professional and service awards, visit


About the American Ornithologists' Union

The American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) is an international society devoted to advancing the scientific understanding of birds, enriching ornithology as a profession, and promoting a rigorous scientific basis for the conservation of birds. The AOU produces scientific publications of the highest quality, hosts intellectually engaging and professionally vital meetings, serves ornithologists at every career stage, pursues a global perspective, and informs public policy on all issues important to ornithology and ornithological collections.

The AOU was founded in 1883 by William Brewster, Elliott Coues and Joel Allen out of concern for bird conservation and interest in developing the field of ornithology in North America. Early AOU efforts led to formation of the National Audubon Society and the Biological Survey (now known as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). Today, the AOU is the largest ornithological society in the Western Hemisphere and one of the oldest organizations in the world devoted to the scientific study and conservation of birds.

The AOU publishes The Auk: Ornithological Advances, which has one of the highest scientific impact rankings among ornithological journals worldwide. The Auk is an international journal that advances fundamental scientific knowledge in two ways: increase in the basic knowledge of bird species, both living and extinct; and increase in the knowledge of broad biological and conservation concepts through studies of bird species.

The AOU Checklist is the accepted authority for scientific nomenclature and English names of birds in North and Middle America. The AOU has recently completed a complementary checklist for South American birds. The AOU also sponsors The Birds of North America Online, in partnership with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

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