The William Brewster Memorial Award, bestowed each year by the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU) to the author or co-authors of an exceptional body of work on birds of the Western Hemisphere, is one of the most prestigious awards in the field of ornithology. This summer at their 133rd stated meeting in Norman, Oklahoma, the society was pleased to bestow Dr. Rosemary Grant, a Senior Research Scholar at Princeton University, with the 2015 Brewster Medal.
Dr. Grant began her work on the Galapagos Islands in 1973 along with her husband Peter, and has spent six months out of every year since conducting meticulous fieldwork on Galapagos finches. Known as "Darwin's finches" because Charles Darwin's observations of the island birds helped shape his initial ideas on natural selection, the assemblage of species continues to provide an ideal system for studying evolution in action as their populations change in response to changes in factors like such as food sources and climate fluctuations.
The results of the Grants' decades-long studies on the finches' ecology, behavior, and genetics are regularly studied by biology students worldwide and have been chronicled in over 100 peer-reviewed publications and five books, including multiple papers in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and Nature. Peter Grant was a previous recipient of the Brewster Award in 1983, and past joint recognition for their work includes the E. O. Wilson Naturalist Prize (1998), the Darwin Medal from the Royal Society of London (2002), the Darwin-Wallace Medal of the Linnean Society (2008), and the Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences (2009).
"It was an unexpected and wonderful honor to be a recipient of the Brewster Award. I remember so well when Peter received this award and how delighted we both were at that time. I feel very privileged to join him and other Brewster Award winners, all of whom I admire," says Dr. Grant. "I am particularly gratified that long-term fieldwork in ornithology is honored in this way, because knowledge gained from such data is uniquely valuable. For example, a combination of rigorous field observations combined with genetic techniques can reveal powerful insights into the fields of both evolution and conservation."
Consisting of a medal and an honorarium, the Brewster Award was established in 1921 in honor of William Brewster, one of the founders of the AOU. The first woman to win the award was Florence Merriam Bailey in 1931; Dr. Grant joins a group of seven distinguished women scientists who have received the award. For more information on the William Brewster Memorial Award, visit http://americanornithology.org/content/2015-william-brewster-memorial-award.
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.