2020 Award Recipients

Dear colleagues and fellow mammalogists –

The lack of an Annual Meeting this year means that we had no Closing Social. The Closing Social typically serves as a final opportunity to hang out with old friends, and some new ones, and to chat about life and our science. It also is our venue for announcing the recipient of our various awards. Since we were unable to hold a Closing Social this year, I wanted to ensure that you all had an opportunity to know who won which awards. Additionally, these rising stars and global leaders deserve their “moment in the sun”. This could be a very long message, if I were to outline all the qualifications that made all recipients worthy of selection, so I will endeavor to do what I do so poorly – I will try to be succinct. You can find further details on the ASM website, of course. The hyperlinks below will take you to the web pages for each of these awards if you are interested in further reading. If you find any of these awards particularly special to you (or your students), you can see where our funding stands for to these awards here

The Honoraria and Travel Awards Committee selects graduate student recipients to be honored for their research in mammalogy. The Society has four named awards, recognizing key historical contributors to the Society and its students. These are the Anna M. Jackson Award, the A. Brazier Howell Award, the Elmer C. Birney Award, and the Annie M. Alexander Award, and you can read more about each of these people on the committee’s web page. The Alexander Award is for master's students only, while either master's or doctoral students are eligible for the other three awards. Honoraria recipients are awarded a $2,000 stipend to attend the Annual Meeting, where they are invited to present their papers at the opening Plenary Session. The committee also awards up to two Undergraduate Student Honoraria, and these students also are awarded a $1,200 stipend to attend the meetings where they will give either an oral or poster presentation during regular concurrent technical sessions. We had another great year for our honoraria, and the graduate student recipients follow:

  • Anna M. Jackson Award: Addison Allen (University of Oklahoma; M.S.).  Dietary competition during fire succession influences ecological turnover in a small mammal community.
  • Elmer C. Birney Award: Saeideh Esmaeili (University of Wyoming; Ph.D.).  Digestive system and body size shape resource selection by free-ranging ungulates: a global test of the Forage Maturation Hypothesis.
  • Brazier Howell Award: Lisa Walsh (University of Michigan; Ph.D.).  Isotopic niche variation in the Virginia opossum’s range expansion.
  • Annie M. Alexander AwardMariah Schlis-Elias (Austin Peay State University; M.S.).  Biogeography drives insular gigantism and shape variation in meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) through ecological release and allometry.
  • This year’s undergraduate honoraria were Ananth Miller-Murthy (Yale University), for his work entitled “Taxonomic boundaries of the lesser tree shrew (Tupaia minor) as revealed by manus proportions,” and Sandy Slovikosky (University of Arizona), for work entitled “Assessing Mexican woodrat (Neotoma mexicana) movement over patches of different burn severity.”  Congratulations to all six recipients. I am very sorry we couldn’t hear you speak this year, but we look forward to rectifying that soon.

The Grants-in-Aid of Research Committee provides competitive awards of up to $1,500, intended to support field or laboratory work in any area of mammalogy, or the purchase of supplies and small items of equipment related to this research. The GIA committee received 110 applications in 2020, and they selected 36 recipients based on comprehensive reviews of their proposed work. The proposal that receives the highest rank across all reviewers is recognized with the Elizabeth Horner Award, which includes an additional $500 in research support. Betty Horner was a Patron Member of the ASM and the first recipient of the Joseph Grinnell Award. At a time when mammalogy was dominated by men, Betty established very clearly that women were equally effective in all aspects of mammalogy. Indeed, one of her graduate students, J. Mary Taylor, was the first female president of the ASM. Upon Betty’s retirement from almost five decades at Smith College, the ASM honored her by establishing what then were the B. Elizabeth Horner Grants-in-Aid of Research. We now recognize the highest ranked proposal each year as the Horner Award. The 2020 recipient of the Elizabeth Horner Award is Emily Nonnamaker from the University of Notre Dame. Emily and the other outstanding recipients of ASM Grants-in-Aid, their institutions, and their projects, follow:

  • Giorgia Auteri (University of Michigan; Ph.D.). More than skin deep: testing physiological and genomic shifts in little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) in response to white-nose.
  • Felix Baier (Harvard University; Ph.D.). Evolution and neurobiology of defensive behavior against visual threat in deer mice.
  • Emily Beasley (University of Vermont; Ph.D.). Does ectoparasite life history influence occupancy at varying organizational scales?
  • Hailey Boone (State University of New York; Ph.D.). Potential mesopredator release of Isle Royale red foxes.
  • Ben Borgmann-Winter (University of New Hampshire; M.S.). Small mammals as forest architects: exploring the role of rodents in mycorrhizal mushroom dispersal.
  • Elaine Brice (Utah State University; Ph.D.). Understanding the cascading effects of wolves on aspen in northern Yellowstone National Park.
  • Raylenne da Silva Araujo (National Institute for Amazonian Research; Ph.D.). Impacts of Santo Antonio hydroelectric on small non-flying mammals assemblage on Madeira River, Amazon.
  • Caylee Falvo (Montana State University; Ph.D.). Novel methods to measure the immune status of bats, critical viral reservoirs.
  • Adriana Guerrero Chacon (University of Saskatchewan; Ph.D.). Individual variation in daily energy expenditure during lactation in Columbian ground squirrels (Urocitellus columbianus).
  • Deborah Hawkshaw (University of Saskatchewan; M.S.). Sex-specific effects of body condition on hibernation expression and reproduction in Canadian black-tailed prairie dogs.
  • Sarah Heissenberger (University of Arkansas; M.S.). Investigating ultimate & proximate causes of social instability via water availability and stress physiology in Octodon degus.
  • Gabriela Heyer (University of Saskatchewan; M.S.). Local adaptation in hibernation phenotypes of Columbian ground squirrels (Urocitellus columbianus).
  • Molly Hirst (University of Michigan; Ph.D.). Sperm morphological divergence and its influence on reproductive isolation in a natural primate hybrid zone.
  • Rachel Kanaziz (Colorado State University; M.S.). Does maternal stress drive daughter dispersal in an asocial mammal?
  • Abigail Kelly (University of Cincinnati; Ph.D.). Testing dietary stress as a contributor to end-Pleistocene horse extinction in North America.
  • Molly McEntee (Georgetown University; Ph.D.). Cooperative female defense against male harassment and sexual coercion in Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins.
  • Ellen Michels (Northern Michigan University; M.S.). Molecular and morphological consequences of post-glacial contact among lineages of northern short-tailed shrews (Blarina brevicauda) in eastern North America
  • Kendall Mills (University of Alaska Fairbanks; Ph.D.). Melanistic hoary marmots: a model for improved immune function.
  • Kirby Mills (University of Michigan; Ph.D.). Water-driven competitive overlap in an endangered large carnivore community.
  • Francisco Molina (University of Wyoming; Ph.D.). Resource availability as a driver of behaviorally mediated trophic cascades in the Patagonian Steppe.
  • Rachel Nelson (George Washington University; Ph.D.). Water stress and behavioral adaptations to lactation in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes).
  • Emily Nonnamaker (University of Notre Dame; Ph.D.). Do microbes contribute to olfactory signals of ovulation in baboons?  Elizabeth Horner Award recipient.
  • Shannon O'Brien (University of California Berkeley; Ph.D.). Disentangling the effects of sociality and kinship on gut microbial diversity in a facultatively social rodent.
  • Anna Penna (University of Texas San Antonio; Ph.D.). How many babies in the bush? Systematics of cryptic dwarf bushbabies (Galagoides spp.).
  • Erin Person (University of California Berkeley; Ph.D.). Impact of social behavior on the gut microbiome of a free-living mammal.
  • Imran Razik (Ohio State University; Ph.D.). Neuroendocrine basis of cooperative behavior in the common vampire bat.
  • Zoë Rossman (University of New Mexico; Ph.D.). Resource partitioning and individual specialization in a community of urban carnivores.
  • Rebecca Smith (University of Saskatchewan; M.S.). Mechanisms of climate-mediated effects on intraspecific torpor profiles in Columbian ground squirrels (Urocitellus columbianus).
  • David Sneddon (University of Idaho; Ph.D.). Genomic islands of divergence in red-tailed chipmunks (Tamias ruficaudus) across differentially aged hybrid zones.
  • Samantha Stead (University of Toronto; Ph.D.). Allomaternal care and female reproduction in Angolan colobus mothers.
  • Rachel Stein (University of Idaho; Ph.D.). Applying laser technology to novel measures of wildlife habitat.
  • Isabel Sullivan (University of Maryland, College Park; M.S.). Life by the numbers: Epigenetic effects of hibernation in the big brown bat.
  • William Thomas (Stony Brook University; Ph.D.). Epigenetics of a unique wintering strategy.
  • William Weber (University of Maryland; Ph.D.). Understanding how social dynamics drive variation in male fertility.
  • Kwasi Wrensford (University of California Berkeley; Ph.D.). The role of phenotypic plasticity in population response to environmental change.
  • Xueling Yi (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; Ph.D.). Evolution, diversity, and conservation of North American biota – a case study using phylogeography in the big brown bat.

Grants-in-Aid continues to be one of our best investments, and I continue to be deeply impressed with both the breadth of research that we are able to support.

The Latin American Fellowship Committee (LAFC) oversees the review of two funding programs. One is the Latin American Student Field Research Awards, intended to support field research projects by Latin American students in Latin America. Projects must be field-oriented investigations, and the scope of investigation that can be funded is broad, including natural history, conservation, ecology, systematics, wildlife biology, biogeography, or behavior. The committee received 23 applications for this program this year, and were able to award five grants of $1,500 each. Recipients (including home country, current institution, and degree objective) were:

  • Gimena Illia (Argentina; Instituto de Biología Subtropical, Puerto Iguazu; Ph.D.). Effects of landscape modification on ecosystem health: the role of the black capuchin monkey (Sapajus nigritus) as sentinels of the ecosystem health in the Atlantic Forest.
  • Issac Camargo (México; Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas del Noroeste; Ph.D.). Relaciones filogenéticas entre las musarañas desérticas del género Notiosorex.
  • Luciana Luz Castillo Sanchez (Argentina; National University of San Luis; Ph.D.). Relationships between sympatric predators in semiarid environments of Argentina.
  • Malena Candino (Argentina; University of Wisconsin-Madison; M.S.). Habitat and resource selection of a partially migratory population of guanacos in a strongly seasonal environment.
  • Natalia Ivone Sandoval Herrera (Costa Rica; University of Toronto; Ph.D.). Sublethal effects of pesticides on bats: from cells to behavior.

The LAFC also reviews applications for the Oliver P. Pearson Award, which supports a young professional who holds an academic position in a Latin American institution and is within 5 years of receiving a Ph.D. or equivalent degree. Oliver (Paynie) Pearson was a professor emeritus at the University of California Berkeley, and third director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. He studied mammal ecology in Latin America over six decades, profoundly influencing an entire generation of mammalogists. This award was established soon after Paynie’s death in 2003. A single $5,000 award is granted each year, plus up to $2,000 to offset the costs of attending the ASM Annual Meeting the year following the award. This year the committee received nine applications, and selected Dra. Emma P. Gómez-Ruiz, who is a professor of biology at the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Instituto Politécnico Nacional. Dra. Gómez-Ruiz’s research emphasizes ecology and conservation, with a focus on mammals, and in particular on Mexican bats. Her work on the Mexican long-nosed bat and its interactions with agave plants suggest that climate change may greatly disrupt this relationship within a relatively short period. I look forward to hearing presentations by Dr. Gómez-Ruiz at future ASM meetings.

The James L. Patton Award was established in 2015 to promote and support museum-based research by graduate student members of the ASM. Jim’s work is notable for seamlessly integrating morphology with genomics; he is the consummate museum scientist. Reflecting Jim’s legacy, this $5,000 award is intended to facilitate the direct use of museum specimens, including travel costs to visit collections and associated analytical or equipment costs. The award honors Jim’s commitment to research collections and their use in understanding the diversity and evolution of mammals, his passion for mentoring young mammalogists, and his long-standing service to the society. The committee received 27 applications for the Patton Award this year, and they noted that the diversity and quality of proposals was outstanding. This year’s recipient is Giovanni Tolentino Ramos, a M.S. student at the University of Oklahoma. Mr. Tolentino’s project is “Back to the past: delimiting the effects of climate change through historical specimens,” and for this he is studying collared pikas in Alaska. 

In 2005 the ASM partnered with AIBS to fund the ASM Graduate Student Science Policy Leadership Award. This award was created to facilitate the involvement of ASM student members in science public policy. Recipients of this award typically travel to Washington, D.C., during Congressional Visits Day (typically in March), where they receive training by AIBS colleagues on science communication and policy, and have opportunities to meet with members of Congress. The awardees benefit from policy training, experiential learning, and interactions with federal scientists and respected policy decision-makers. The award is important for creating a future generation of mammalogists who are engaged in the science-policy interface and can serve as an active voice for our community. The pandemic led to cancellation of Congressional Visits Day this year, but our recipients received formal training via an online workshop in April. The committee received eight applications, and the quality was high. This year’s recipients were Antonia Androski of the University of New Mexico and Barbara Sugarman of Sul Ross State University. The Committee will communicate with AIBS concerning honoring these award recipients at some point, and we wish we had been able to do so at our Closing Social.

In 2002 the ASM established two awards to recognize colleagues who have made a significant contribution to the conservation of mammals and their habitats. The first of these recognizes a current undergraduate or graduate student, post-doctoral fellow, or early career researcher (within 5 years of their terminal degree). Initially named the William T. Hornaday Award in recognition of Hornaday’s efforts to protect northern fur seals, American bison, and other mammals, the ASM Board of Directors renamed this the Murie Family Conservation Award in 2020. This name recognizes the renowned and influential half-brothers Olaus and Adolph Murie, and their wives (also half-sisters) Margaret and Louise Murie, who were founding figures in wildlife management and conservation. The 2020 recipient of the Murie Family award is Dr. Jennifer A. Guyton, who pursued her dissertation research in Mozambique not long after a civil war had greatly impacted wildlife populations. As her Ph.D. advisor emphasizes in his supporting letter, Dr. Guyton’s career is a case study in how to be successful without following any of the standard rules. Her Ph.D. integrated biological survey (e.g., a 178-page chapter, “Guide to the Bats of Gorongosa National Park”), literature review (conservation of African bats in the face of Ebola), and seminal work on interactions among large herbivores and plants. One chapter showed how rewilding of large herbivores at Gorongosa could contain Mimosa pigra, one of the world’s 100 worst invasive plant species. In addition to this, she participated in the park’s small mammal and bat surveys, and eventually became the small mammal specialist; she continues annual surveys for bats, which has led to the discovery of three new species. She also developed exceptional talents in photography, and she now integrates her ecological knowledge and conservation passions with diverse tools, including photography. As one referee wrote, “Jen is a fully modernized incarnation of early explorer naturalists—a Renaissance-type character. She is pushing frontiers of knowledge in similar ways, but using all the cutting-edge 21st-century tools at her disposal.”  The Murie Family award is one for which the recipients are invited to give a plenary talk, and I look forward to hearing Dr. Guyton’s presentation next year.

The African Graduate Student Research Fund Committee was formed in 2013 to review applications from African nationals pursuing graduate degrees on field-oriented investigations of natural history, conservation, ecology, systematics, wildlife biology, biogeography, or behavior of African mammals. Each year this committee selects three to four applications (five this year!) to receive a $1,500 grant in support of their research, as well as an online membership in the ASM. Eligible students must be citizens of African countries and must be enrolled in a degree-granting graduate program. In 2020 the committee received 24 applications from citizens of 12 African countries enrolled in 20 institutions spanning 15 countries and three continents. This year's five recipients of the ASM African Graduate Student Research Fund include (with country of citizenship and current university):

  • Charles Emogor (Nigeria; University of Cambridge; Ph.D.). Ecology of the white-bellied pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) in Nigeria.
  • Clinton Factheu (Cameroon; University of Yaounde I; Ph.D.). Using passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) to assess the impact of Salvinia molesta on the African manatee’s habitat use in Lake Ossa, Cameroon.
  • Zabibu Kabalika (Tanzania; University of Glasgow; Ph.D.). Tracking animal movement patterns: Application of stable isotope signatures in tail hair as geolocators through time.
  • Aristide SockBell (Cameroon; University of Douala; Ph.D.). Effects of urbanization on bat population structure in the Douala-Yabassi region of Cameroon: conservation and public health concerns.
  • Douatsop Valorian (Cameroon; University of Dschang; M.S.). Filling in knowledge gaps surrounding Africa’s most elusive cat species, Profelis aurata, in a bid to update its conservation status and reduce risk of extinction.

Photos of each awardee and a summary of their ASM-funded research will be posted on the committee's web site soon. We congratulate these young scientists and look forward to learning of their results!

At our 2019 Centennial Meeting in Washington, D.C., the ASM Board of Directors approved three new awards that fall under two funding mechanisms. The first of these is the Donald W. and Glennis A. Kaufman Research Award, named after two long-time members of the Society who have mentored students and postdocs, and been strong and consistent promotors of research on the biology of small mammals in North American prairie habitat. The Kaufman Award supports field-based ecological research, conducted in the grasslands of the Great Plains states and/or Canada Prairie Provinces by graduate student (M.S. or Ph.D.) members of the ASM, focusing on native mammals, with a preference given to research focused on rodents and/or shrews. The $2,500 award may be used to support travel costs to visit research sites, and associated equipment or analytical costs. This year’s recipient of the Kaufman Award is John D. Shuhler, who is a PhD candidate at Texas Tech University. John is studying the threatened Texas kangaroo rat (Dipodomys elator). This species has a very limited historical distribution in northern Texas and adjacent parts of Oklahoma, but currently found in a few counties in Texas. John is integrating GPS tracking, GIS, and airborne remote sensing to characterize space use and habitat selection at multiple scales, and movement and patterns, towards better understanding how this species can utilize and exploit available habitats. This information may be critical for resource managers hoping to improve the fate of this kangaroo rat.

The second and third awards support a graduate and postdoctoral research, respectively, on the ecology or behavior of rodents native to the any part of the New World, with an emphasis either on field research or laboratory research that supports or augments field research. The Guy N. Cameron Rodent Research Awards provide a single $5,000 award for one graduate student recipient and a second $5,000 award for one postdoctoral fellow. In this inaugural year the Cameron committee received 19 graduate student applications and 6 postdoctoral applications, and the committee noted the high quality of these applications overall. The recipient of the 2020 Cameron Award for graduate students is Carson Keller, from the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Carson is broadly interested in mechanisms driving predator-prey relationships, and in the non-consumptive effects of fear. For his dissertation work, Carson is exploring how different invasive plant species alter perceptions of risk by small mammals. At the postdoctoral level, the 2020 recipient of the Cameron Award is Dr. Andreas Kautt, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. There, Andreas has transitioned from exciting evolutionary studies on cichlid fish to studying the genetic and molecular bases underlying variation in innate behaviors in Peromyscus. Broadly speaking, his interests focus on applying population-genomic data to understand the evolutionary history of populations and to identify the genetic bases of adaptation and speciation. Both recipients reflect very well on the ASM and on the focus of this award, and we can look forward to presentations and publications in the coming years.

Returning to the Grants-in-Aid Committee, in addition to selecting recipients of our Grants-in-Aid of Research, this hard-working group also selects recipients of our two top student awards. Students may apply for either or both of these, and this year the committee received nine applications. The Albert R. and Alma Shadle Fellowship was established in the 1970s through a bequest by Alma Shadle to the Buffalo Foundation (Buffalo, NY), for “a graduate student in a university in the United States of America, who is engaged in the study of mammalogy”. Alma was the widow of Albert Shadle, a prominent mammalogists through much of the mid-20th Century and an Honorary Member of the ASM. The ASM applies this fellowship in recognition of current accomplishments and future potential in mammalogy. This fellowship is intended to promote a professional career in mammalogy by allowing the recipient greater freedom to pursue research, but this is not a grant in support of a specific research project. 

This year’s recipient of the Albert R. and Alma Shadle Fellowship is Jesse Alston, from the University of Wyoming. Jesse has published in Conservation Letters, Biological Conservation, and Forest Ecology and Management, and he has independently raised over $220,000 to support his research from numerous organizations, including the National Park Service, Prairie Biotic Research, the Wyoming Chapter of the Wildlife Society, and the ASM. In addition to his scientific writing, he also has written about science, policy, and the environment for several public media outlets, including FiveThirtyEight and High Country News, and he is on the pre-print editorial team at Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. He is an active member of ASM, serving on the Human Diversity, African Graduate Student Research Fund, and Biodiversity Committees, and has presented at the past two annual meetings. His dissertation work combines field research and analyses of a large biometric data set to link thermal ecology to behavior, reproduction, and biogeography in bats. He is also working on several additional projects concerning disease ecology, animal movement, demography, conservation, and open science. He plans to use funds from the Shadle Fellowship to expand the scope of his ongoing field research at Jewel Cave National Monument and to attend the next ASM annual meeting. Although we have opted for a virtual meeting in 2021, we look forward to Jesse’s plenary presentation, and we hope that he can join us in 2022 (and beyond) to present further updates on his work.

The ASM Fellowship was established by the Board of Directors in the late 1990s, and first awarded in 2001. This is our highest student award, and is intended to recognize current accomplishments in mammalogy, service to ASM, and the potential for a productive, future role in professional mammalogy. This year’s recipient of the ASM Fellowship is Jonathan Nations of Louisiana State University. Mr. Nations has received grants from the ASM and the Society of Systematic Biologists, as well as a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation, and he recently received an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology. He has published work in Evolution, the Biological Journal of the Linnaean Society, and the Journal of Mammalogy. He has been a member of the ASM for nine years and has presented at six ASM meetings as well as the International Mammalogical Congress in 2017. He is an active member of ASM, serving on both the Nomenclature and Biodiversity Committees.

Jon’s dissertation work focuses on the interplay of function, history, and ecology on morphological evolution. His work combines data from museum specimens with diverse methodologies, such as phylogenetic inference, 2D and 3D morphometrics, stable isotope ecology, and multilevel modeling, to investigate the role of locomotion in the generation and maintenance of diversity in a species-rich group of small mammals, the murine rodents. Museum collections form the keystone of his research, and he is passionate about combining specimen data with current technologies to better understand mammalian diversity. He plans to use his ASM Fellowship funding as support, and to continue building both specimen collections and collaborations in Southeast Asia.

This brings us to what we affectionately call our senior awards, with which we recognize leadership in mammalogy. This leadership includes world-class research but also efforts towards conservation of mammals and their habitats, excellence in pedagogy, and in service to the Society. These are senior mammalogists who have set the stage, established “the bar”, and pushed the limits of the field.

Our first such award is the Hartley H. T. Jackson Award. Established in 1977 to recognize individuals who have given outstanding service to ASM, this is named in honor of Hartley Jackson, who was instrumental in founding the ASM. Jackson held several offices in the fledgling ASM, including President, Corresponding Secretary, Editor of Journal of Mammalogy, and member of the Board of Directors. In 1920 he also pushed to establish an endowment fund, especially to fund publications (now a major part of our Reserves). Jackson embodied service to ASM – as founder of the Society and of the Reserve Fund he set the Society on firm footing. Recipients of the Jackson Award are an impressive lot, and their names are known to many if not most of us. This year’s recipient of the Jackson Award is Dr. Elmer J. Finck. Elmer has devoted over 35 years of his professional career in service not only to the ASM but also to regional, state, and local scientific communities. For the ASM alone he has accumulated at least 72 years of committee service (including the Membership Committee, Conservation Award Committee, Education and Graduate Student Committee, and the Program Committee). To this we can add six years on the ASM Board of Directors, 24 years as Business Manager of the Mammal Slide/Image Library, and service on the Local Committee for the 71st Annual Meeting and co-host for the 98th Annual Meeting, both at K-State University in Manhattan, Kansas. As such, Elmer has donated over 100 service years to the ASM, which equates to about three service roles annually – every year!  Perhaps more importantly, Elmer was never on a committee or in any other position unless he was actively involved. And, as one letter states, much of what he has done is often “behind-the-scenes”. Although recently retired from the faculty at Fort Hays State University, he continues with active service to this Society. As one nominee wrote, Elmer Finck “has been a bastion of the ASM, and I can’t think of a more deserving recipient of the Jackson Award.”  On behalf of the entire Society I thank Elmer for his lasting dedication to our well-being, and his seemingly endless energy to help keep the Society moving forward.

The Joseph Grinnell Award was established in 1996 to honor individuals who have made outstanding and sustained contributions to education in mammalogy over a period of at least 10 years. The award recognizes excellence in education in the broadest sense. It encompasses not only the traditional roles of teaching undergraduate and graduate students in academic institutions, but also educational activities such as production of materials for federal, state, or local agencies, public education through creation of museum displays, and enhancement or encouragement of education through stewardship activities. Joseph Grinnell was the first Director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at UC Berkeley. From this position he pursued and oversaw most of the early biological surveys of California but also established the foundation for taxonomy in the region. He established the extraordinary distributional baseline on which “Grinnell Resurveys” continue today, and he developed “the Grinnell Method” of taking field notes that many of us still employ and teach. Ecologists will recall that Grinnell also wrote a foundational paper on the niche, and although his choice of taxa was a bird, the paper remains a must-read for ecologists. Grinnell also mentored many “second generation” leaders in mammalogy, including E. R. Hall, Henry Fitch, Seth Benson, Lee Dice, Alden Miller, William Burt, Emmett Hooper, and Ian McTaggart-Cowan (and their students in turn comprise a remarkable legacy as well). Most of us can trace our own academic lineage back to Grinnell, by one route or another. 

The 2020 recipient of the Grinnell Award is Dr. Tad Theimer from the Biological Sciences Department at Northern Arizona University. The nomination packet for Dr. Theimer stands out for the unabashed praise that his students and colleagues have bestowed on his passion and his compassion. Praise is complemented, however, with emphasis on rigor – “He is kind compassionate, and extremely passionate about what he does, but . . . [h]is incredibly high expectations of his students’ research sometimes felt insurmountable, [yet] he always knew when to push and when to pull back.”  And while “easily the most talented and effective instructor that I have encountered”, he “is constantly looking for ways to be a better teacher.”  Even when students know that his course work will be demanding, they argue that he “has a way of making his course work fun and exciting.”  One colleague wrote simply that “He is exemplary in involving students in research” and “[b]y involving students in his publications and bringing research into the classroom, he embodies the scholar-researcher model of excellence.”  We are honored to recognize Tad Theimer’s dedication to pedagogy and his impact on the pedagogy of mammalogy.

Our third senior award is also our second Conservation Award. The Aldo Leopold Award is awarded to a well-established individual who has made a lasting contribution to the conservation of mammals and their habitats. Aldo Leopold requires no introduction. The father of wildlife management and one of the early proponents of the conservation value of predator populations, Leopold famously wrote that “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  Recipients of the Leopold Award stand out for the impact each has had on the conservation of mammals  and their habitats. 

The 2020 recipient of the Leopold Award is Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, from Uganda. At the age of 25, Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka was appointed as the first Chief Wildlife Veterinary Officer in Uganda. In this role, among other things, she oversaw wildlife translocations to replenish Uganda’s national parks after these populations had been depleted by civil war. After recognizing the potential for disease transmission from human tourists to gorillas, she led the move to employ PPE to reduce the risk of disease transmission. In recent years she established a small but extremely effective NGO, Conservation Through Public Health. CTPH is crucial in securing the health and conservation of gorillas and other wildlife. This group recently launched a gorilla-friendly coffee certification program, and they have a gorilla-friendly coffee shop in Entebbe, Uganda. Additionally, Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka has trained scores of young Ugandans for conservation, and she serves on a variety of organizational boards, both in Uganda and internationally. Her work has been recognized by some of the greatest conservation organizations, including the Whitley Fund for Nature’s Gold Award. She is a National Geographic Explorer, recipient of the Jane Goodall Institute Award for Conservation, and she was recognized as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. As her nominating letter states, Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka embodies what should be the ideal of every conservation professional out there: 1) producing top-of-the-line science and knowledge, 2) capacity building of new generations for conservation, 3) having a hands-on approach to implementation of her work. Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka represents the values and ideals of the ASM in her positive impact on wildlife conservation, and we are proud to add her name to the growing list of Leopold recipients.

Our final award is the C. Hart Merriam Award, established in 1974 to honor outstanding contributions to mammalogy through research, teaching, and service; with the development of awards that target some of these areas more explicitly, the Board of Directors amended these criteria in 1996 so that the award now emphasizes outstanding research in mammalogy. Nominees typically are established scientists who are actively engaged in research and who have made significant contributions to the science of mammalogy over a period of at least 10 years. In addition to speaking in a plenary session in the year following receipt of this award, the recipient is invited to prepare a manuscript for publication in the Journal of Mammalogy that is based on this presentation. These Merriam papers are always a treat to read!

Like the namesakes of other ASM awards, C. Hart Merriam needs no introduction. He was the first Chief of the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy (USDA), later renamed the Bureau of Biological Survey and predecessor to both the National Wildlife Research Center and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Merriam initiated the North American Fauna series and pursued extensive studies on the taxonomy and distribution of mammals. He developed the concept of “life zones” that remains widely known to ecologists. Merriam oversaw many of the seminal surveys of birds and mammals throughout North America, and he is widely regarded as a leading figure in natural sciences, and the father of mammalogy as an academic discipline.

The 2020 recipient of the Merriam Award lives up to these lofty expectations. Dr. Jean-Michel Gaillard is currently a Senior Researcher (1st Class) at the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS). His influence on population ecology generally, but in particular as it pertains to mammals, is impossible to distill briefly. He has published about or in excess of 400 scientific publications, including 123 in the past five years alone!  Sixty-five of his publications have been cited over 100 times, and Google Scholar indicates that his publications have been cited over 26,600 times. Three have become Citation Classics.

Dr. Gaillard’s research lies at the interface of theory and application. He is known world-wide for research in four major areas of mammalogy, often integrating those sub-disciplines to achieve novel outcomes: 1) Life-history Theory (especially senescence and aging); 2) Behavioral Ecology; 3) Population Ecology; and 4) Management and Conservation. His approach often involves quantitative methods, at which he excels. Much of this research has been focused on ungulates, especially roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), but he has ventured into other mammalian taxa in recent years. Notably, his research is characterized by long-term field studies. Dr. Gaillard uses mammals as models to answer important questions in biology.

Dr. Gaillard does not shy away from service, either. He is the Executive Editor of the Journal of Animal Ecology, Associate Editor for Ecography, Oecologia, Ecology Letters, and American Naturalist, and he serves as an Invited Editor for Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution for a special feature on “Advances in Ungulate Ecology.” Past editorial activities are similarly generous. Dr. Gaillard also was the President of the Evolutionary Demography Society in 2018.

Dr. Gaillard has seen 31 Ph.D. students to the successful completion of their degrees, including 18 women. He has been the “Opponent” for 38 Ph.D. students in France, as well as for 7 Habilitations. He also has been the Opponent for Ph.D. students in Norway, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Switzerland and Canada.

If his resumé is impressive, his nomination letters were equally so. One ex-student wrote that “Jean Michel was inspiring, engaged and reliable.”  Another noted that “his ability to share his enthusiasm and embark others on his research ideas, his endless energy and optimism, his encyclopedic knowledge of the literature and of mammal (and more) Latin names and life history traits” were among the reasons for his successful mentoring of students. Dr. Gaillard is well liked by his students, many of whom hold important positions in a variety of countries, and have followed in his academic footsteps.

I could go on!  Reading such nomination packets is both daunting and inspirational, and perhaps one of the joys of serving on the ASM Board of Directors. I will conclude with three quotes taken from other nominator letters.

  • “The contributions of Prof. Gaillard to our understanding of population dynamics in mammals are seminal. Through his own empirical research, his vast network of collaborators (including many former students) and his unique ability to synthesize research on different species, he has tested theories on the importance of different vital rates in driving population dynamics according to life history characteristics, explored the complex and variable role of both weather and density dependence, and shown the consequences of different harvest strategies upon population growth of exploited mammals.”
  • “Jean-Michel has been in the vanguard of applying state-of-the-art mark-recapture methods to individual-based data. The methodological advances have provided not only important biological insight into the factors that influence survival, but have allowed biologists to access powerful methods that provide unbiased parameter estimates with appropriate levels of uncertainty.”
  • “[Dr.] Gaillard has arguably been the most influential researcher within the field of population ecology and demography of mammals in the last two decades. His work in particular on large mammal population ecology provide today the main theoretical basis of the field.”

As with the recipients of our honoraria awards, the Murie and Shadle awards, the ASM Fellowship, and the Grinnell and Leopold awards, I look forward enthusiastically to Dr. Gaillard’s plenary presentation at the 2021 ASM annual meeting.

The American Society of Mammalogists continues to strive to support and promote the very best in mammalogy, and to help non-specialists appreciate the diversity of mammals and their important roles in natural systems. The recipients of our awards typically exhibit the very best in these goals, and this year’s recipients are no exception. If the names presented in this letter are any indication of the caliber of mammalogy today, we are indeed in very good shape.

Typically, at this point in the Closing Social we would move on to the Host Resolution, a light-hearted overview of the annual meeting. We have no such resolution this year, but we look forward to returning to traditional haunts in 2022. Meanwhile, 2021 will see our first virtual meeting (and likely a very real Host Resolution!), and I hope that you all can participate in that. I also hope to see many of you at our 2022 meeting as well. Until then, I wish you success in your fieldwork, your lab work, your teaching, or general mammal-watching, and life in general. Thank you for your continued support of the ASM. 

Very sincerely,

Douglas A. Kelt, President