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2010 PIF Award Winners

Each year, Partners in Flight presents awards to those individuals, groups or organizations that have made exceptional contributions to the field of landbird conservation.  Awardees are recognized in one of four categories: Leadership, Investigations, Land Stewardship, and Public Awareness. 
The Department of Defense Partners in Flight Program and Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory have both sponsored the Partners in Flight Awards Program this year. The Awards Committee, chaired by Rich Fischer, made the following selections.

Two Awards were presented for Public Awareness

Ashley Dayer (Cornell University, Graduate Student)

Ashley’s contributions to the bird conservation community have been far-reaching. She has accomplished her dedicated work to PIF initially as an employee of Klamath Bird Observatory, and since 2009 while a doctoral student at Cornell University.

  • In the absence of an active PIF Education and Outreach Working Group, in 2006 Ashley single-handedly revived, organized and lead bird educators to again become a force in bird conservation.

  • She played the lead role in infusing the 4th International PIF Conference in McAllen, Texas, with bird conservation education sessions and content to an unprecedented level.

  • She also helped establish the Bird Education Alliance for Conservation (http://www.birdedalliance.org) and continues to lead that effort.

  • Ashley was one of two Managing Editors for the recently published Saving Our Shared Birds: Partners in Flight Tri-National Vision for Landbird Conservation.

  • Ashley has also routinely provided valuable input on education, human dimensions, and communications to the PIF Science Committee, the Implementation Committee, other PIF working groups, and the U.S. State of the Birds. During 2010 she organized and led three webinars for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and state biologists on topics of pressing conservation need.

Ashley’s involvement in the PIF Implementation Committee, the PIF Science Committee, and her assistance with education content for the PIF-U.S. website has been invaluable. The majority of active participants in these PIF entities are from research, science, and/or management backgrounds, which frequently means that we do not have experience in how to communicate our vision, goals and objectives to other audiences (e.g., the general public, high-level decision-makers, the press, etc.). With Ashley’s and BEAC’s help we are figuring out how to do this.

Ashley Dayer

U.S. State of the Birds Teams

The first U.S. State of the Birds Report 2009 was the product of an unprecedented partnership among the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), state fish and wildlife agencies, and bird conservation organizations including American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the National Audubon Society, and The Nature Conservancy through a working group of the U.S. North American Bird Conservation Initiative (NABCI). The State of the Birds Report in 2009 revealed troubling declines of bird populations in United States during the last 40 years—a warning signal of the failing health of our ecosystems. It also highlighted heartening evidence that concerted conservation efforts can make a positive difference in restoring habitats and reversing declines.

The State of the Birds Report 2010 on Climate Change was the first comprehensive vulnerability assessment of bird species to climate change across the U.S. The team took a look at how climate change will affect birds and their habitats. Accelerated by human activities, climate change is altering the natural world as we know it and is diminishing the quality of our environment. Habitat loss and degradation not only threaten birds and other wildlife, but also threaten human and societal well-being. Specifically, the report indicated that the way lands are managed can mitigate climate change and help birds adapt to changing conditions.

Both the 2009 and 2010 State of the Birds Reports have had wide reaching impacts through media stories, coverage by blogs and websites, viewings of the videos and PowerPoint presentations, visits to the official State of the Birds website, frequent promotion by the Secretary of the Interior, and references in Congressional settings.

The State of the Birds Team members during 2009 and/or 2010 included: Paul Schmidt,  Brad Bortner, Bob Ford, Brad Andres, Eleanora Babij, Laurel Barnhill, Bob Blohm, Greg Butcher, Jorge Coppen, Debbie Hahn, David Mehlman, David Pashley, Kenneth V. Rosenberg, John R. Sauer, Frank Thompson, George Wallace, Jennifer Wheeler, Alicia King, Miyoko Chu, Ashley Dayer, Steve Holmer, Blythe Thomas, Nancy Severance, Joshua Winchell, Susan Steiner Spear, Pat Leonard.

Paul Schmidt
Paul Schmidt accepts the award for the State of the Birds Team.

Two Awards were presented for Investigations

Robert Cooper, Ph.D. (University of Georgia)

Bob Cooper is a Professor in the Wildlife Ecology and Biometrics Department, University of Georgia.  The significance of Bob Cooper’s accomplishments to PIF can be captured in a single sentence-- developing and maintaining strong connections between research and management for successful conservation.  Bob was one of the founding members of Southeast Partners in Flight more than 20 years ago and his early and continued involvement is a major reason that Southeast Partners in Flight has provided such a successful venue for connecting researchers with applied conservation problems.  He coauthored A Land Managers Guide to Point Counts in 1996, which resulted in a widely adopted standard methodology for point counts throughout the southeast. It is difficult to count the number of graduate students he has had conducting research in the SE and Central America.  Not only has the research of his graduate students had a major impact on timber and grassland management practices in the Southeast but many of his students have gone on to take leadership roles in Southeast Partners in Flight and other applied science partnerships (e.g., Joint Ventures and LCCs).

Bob’s ability to engage both his students and other graduate students throughout the Southeast in applied conservation problems has helped create a new generation of conservation leaders focused on producing rigorous science directly connected to conservation decisions.  He brings students to SEPIF meetings to present and give posters and he himself uses that and other forums to communicate with state, federal and ngo land managers to develop new projects and discuss the application of older research (he does not believe in staying at the University but reaches out to get ideas).  It is impossible for us to calculate the number of bottomland hardwood acres or other SE habitat type or Swainson’s and Prothonotary warblers impacted by Coopers work.

Martha Isabel “Pati” Ruiz Corzo

Joelle Gehring (Michigan Natural Features Inventory)

Joelle is a Senior Conservation Scientist with the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.  Her seminal research on lighted communication towers has led the way for reducing collision mortality of birds, perhaps worldwide.  There are over 100,000 lighted communication towers over 61m in height in the U.S., and these towers are conservatively estimated to kill 4-50 million birds/yr in the U.S. alone. Prior to her research, it was not known if anything could be done to reduce this massive level of mortality. In cooperation with several collaborators, Joelle took the lead in research design, overcoming a number of bureaucratic and logistical obstacles to conduct the first fully replicated research on the effects of various types of communication towers with various types of FAA lighting systems on the collision rates of birds. She discovered that by extinguishing the red, steady-burning L-810 lights but leaving on the strobe or incandescent blinking lights, collision mortality can be reduced 50-71%.

Joelle then worked with both the FAA to conduct “conspicuity” studies, which are those that ensure that towers with the more favorable lighting can be seen adequately by aircraft pilots during nighttime flights under varying weather conditions. The primary reason for the lighting, after all, is pilot warning and human safety. These conspicuity studies determined that, through a change-out in lighting (i.e., extinguishing the L-810 lights but leaving on blinking or strobe lights) that those modified towers were indeed illuminated at levels sufficient to avoid aircraft collisions. This is an excellent example of not only obtaining the scientific information necessary to taking action, but also ensuring that the results are implemented by working through numerous meetings and testifying before Congressional committees. Joelle and her colleagues then took the additional step of ensuring that these results would be distributed and documented via the primary scientific literature.

Beyond this seminal research, Joelle has readily shared her ideas and actively encouraged additional research on the effects of various aspects of communication towers on migratory birds.  The significance of Joelle’s accomplishments can hardly be overstated. We now know that replacing the steady-burning, red L-810 lights on communication towers in the U.S. will make them much safer for birds without compromising pilot safety.  With the growing number of towers, this reduction in mortality is critical. Ultimately, there is no reason that every communication tower on the planet cannot eventually be converted to the safer lighting. This is a unique example of research that can lead to significant positive benefits literally world-wide.

Martha Isabel “Pati” Ruiz Corzo

Two Awards were presented for Leadership

Carol Lively (U.S. Forest Service)

Carol Lively has had a distinguished career of over 37 years in federal service.  Her accomplishments, which span the Western Hemisphere, are too many to fully recount.  Her passion is empowering international partnerships that conserve birds by providing the guidance and initial support needed to help them “take flight.”  Her involvement and support is applauded in dozens of countries. 

Throughout her career at US Fish and Wildlife Service and more recently as the coordinator of the US Forest Service (USFS) “Wings Across the Americas” program, Carol Lively’s contributions to the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats have touched the lives and the work of researchers, conservationists, and educators.  She has provided the USFS with vision because of her exceptional ability to look beyond borders and to develop international projects that will most benefit bird conservation.
Carol’s contributions include:

  • Golden-cheeked Warbler Partnership: Carol initiated the study of the ecology of the Golden-cheeked Warbler through a collaborative effort between USFS International Programs, The Nature Conservancy and the USFS Northern Research Station.

  • Community Participatory Bird Surveys Project in Colombia:  Working with the Federation of Colombian Coffee Growers’ Research Station, Carol’s goals are to develop local, community-based capacity to survey and monitor birds in coffee plantations throughout Colombia.

  • Bird Conservation in the Dominican Republic:  This multi-year effort is conducted in association with the Hispaniolan Ornithological Society and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.  It addresses bird conservation in one of the Caribbean’s most important avian hot spots, where numerous endemic species and migrant birds co-exist.  The project has supported vitally needed research by the Vermont Center on over-wintering migrant birds, most prominently including the Bicknell’s Thrush, which winters primarily on the Island of Hispaniola.

  • Grassland Bird Conservation:  Carol has been extensively involved in international efforts to conserve grassland bird species and brings to the table her experience leading the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture. 

  • Copper River International Migratory Bird Initiative (CRIMBI):  This project was founded in 2001 by several units of the USFS and Ducks Unlimited personnel in Canada, United States and Mexico who recognized that conserving the birds of the Copper River Delta required an international effort.   Carol has identified partners at key locations along the flyway that are used by birds from the Copper River. 

Western Hummingbird Partnership:  Carol has been instrumental in this new partnership, providing guidance in its organization and support for all aspects of the project, from the structure of the education committee to implementation of monitoring efforts.


Martha Isabel “Pati” Ruiz Corzo

Geoff Geupel (PRBO Conservation Science)

Geoff came to the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (PRBO) as an intern in 1980, so celebrated his 30th year at PRBO in 2010.  He is currently the Director of the Terrestrial Ecology Division at PRBO Conservation Science.  His leadership position oversees eight program areas including projects in the Central Valley of California, the Sierra Nevada and its eastern slope, the intermountain west shrub steppe, oak woodland and desert regions of California, and Latin America; it employs over 40 field biologists annually.  Geoff has trained and mentored well over 1,500 interns and young field biologists.   Aside from helping to launch the careers of many good biologists, he has also empowered and inspired these individuals; several now play leading roles in California and Federal natural resource agencies, conservation non-profits, academia and government.

  • Geoff is also the longest running state PIF coordinator, serving at least since the early 1990’s. 

  • He helped found California PIF and played a lead role in translating science into hands-on recommendations being implemented across the western U.S.

  • He has authored over 30 publications, many of which have helped define bird-monitoring protocols throughout North America and Mexico. Examples include the 1993 Handbook of Field Methods for Monitoring Landbirds (co-authored) that is the manual so many of us use and recommend for PIF conservation work, a book that is also available in Spanish. 

  • He was also co-author on the Statistical Guide to Data Analysis of Avian Monitoring Programs (1999) that is also a landmark work.  He has worked closely with private, state and federal agencies in California and other Western states to assess the impact of land management practices and restoration efforts on landbird populations.

  • Geoff also worked hard to get the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture to become “all bird”—to include bird species beyond waterfowl in their charter and implementation plan over the past decade and more.  Geoff is now leading an effort to expand beyond birds and to include the uplands (foothills to the top of the Sierran crest) in order to take a more comprehensive approach to conservation in the Central Valley.

  • He is currently co-Chair of California Partners in Flight, head of the Science Committee of the Riparian Habitat Joint Venture, member of the California State Steering Committee of the Intermountain West Joint Venture, technical committee member of the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture.

Geoff has for decades been a friend and leader of landbird conservation and conservationists.  His visionary thinking, pioneering program development, and conceptual contributions to the continental integrated bird monitoring discussion have provided a cornerstone for landbird conservation.  Geoff’s mantra “no data left behind” truly sums up both his philosophy and his legacy.

Martha Isabel “Pati” Ruiz Corzo

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