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 the birds of the Western Hemisphere, is one of the most prestigious awards an ornithologist can receive. At their meeting at the recent North American Ornithological Conference in Washington, D.C., the society was pleased to announce that the Brewster Award winner for 2016 is Dr. Patricia Parker of the University of Missouri-Saint Louis and the Saint Louis Zoo.
During the first two decades of her forty-year career, Dr. Parker's research concentrated on the social behavior and mating systems of vultures, wrens, and a wide variety of other birds. Interest in the mating system of the Galápagos Hawk, in which a single female mates with multiple males, led her to the Galápagos Islands, where her focus has remained ever since. There, she has studied the evolution, disease ecology, and conservation of many of the islands' bird species. Her studies of disease vectors in the Galápagos have helped prevent a repeat there of the ecological problems that resulted from the introduction of exotic parasites and pathogens in Hawaii.
In both phases of her career, Dr. Parker has been recognized as a leader in the development of creative applications of DNA analysis. In one notable example, she used DNA samples from museum specimens of Galápagos landbirds to pinpoint the timing of the introduction of the avian poxvirus to the islands. She has produced more than 180 publications and trained more than 35 graduate students, including many women, minorities, and students from Latin America.
"I am honored and humbled to be listed among the recipients of the Brewster Medal," says Dr. Parker. "My hope and expectation is that we will see an increasing number of women on this list as we move forward. I feel sure that both women and men in ornithology are motivated by their deep fascination with birds, not by the possibility of receiving an award, but recognition like this is significant and wonderful at this point in my career."
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. Dr. Parker is the ninth woman to receive the award; the first was Florence Merriam Bailey in 1931. For more information on the William Brewster Memorial Award, visit http://americanornithology.org/content/aou-professional-and-service-awards.
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 ranking 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.