2021 Merriam Award - Michael R. Willig

The C. Hart Merriam Award is given to eminent scholars in recognition of outstanding research in mammalogy over a period of at least 10 years. C. Hart Merriam was the first chief of the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy of the United States Department of Agriculture (the precursor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and a founding member of the American Ornithologists' Union, the National Geographic Society, and the American Society of Mammalogists; he served as the first President of the American Society of Mammalogists. Among numerous contributions to mammalogy and science, he developed the concept of "life zones" to classify biomes of North America. He is considered the father of mammalogy.

The 2021 recipient of the C. Hart Merriam Award is Dr. Michael R. Willig. Dr. Willig earned his Ph.D. from The University of Pittsburgh. He became an Assistant Professor of Biology at Loyola University, and then moved to Texas Tech University, where he was promoted through the ranks to Professor of Biological Sciences; he also served as Chair of the Department, and Director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences. Dr. Willig then became a Program Director and later Division Director of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation. Following that appointment, he moved to the University of Connecticut as a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Founding Director of the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Dr. Willig is currently a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Founding Executive Director of the Institute of Environment at the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Willig’s research is multidisciplinary, quantitative, and addresses important questions in ecology, biogeography, and conservation biology. His research has an evolutionary perspective, and involves manipulative and observational studies, as well as modeling. He is an excellent field biologist. Although he has published on a wide variety of organisms, a major thrust of his research continues to involve terrestrial mammals, and aspects of community ecology, biodiversity, and biogeography, especially in the tropics.

Dr. Willig has an impressive record of > 260 publications in high-quality journals, including 45 per-reviewed articles in the past 5 years alone. His papers have received > 25,000 citations, with 4 articles receiving > 1,000 citations. Based in part on that record, he recently was listed among the top 2% of ecologists in the world.

Dr. Willig has been deeply involved as a mentor to numerous students. He oversaw 26 M.S., and 13 Ph.D.’s to the successful completion of their degrees, and fostered the careers of 14 post-doctoral fellows. Dr. Willig also has an incredible record of obtaining extramural funding. He received > 60 major research grants totaling > $37 million US dollars, allowing him to enhance the disciplines of ecology and mammalogy.

Dr. Willig has been an Associate Editor for a Special Edition of Biotropica as well as for Mastozoología Neotropical, Journal of Mammalogy Special Features, Journal of Mammalogy, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, and Ecosphere, Special Feature on High Energy Storms. He also was the Centennial Special Feature Editor for the Journal of Mammalogy. He continues to make major contributions to the field of Mammalogy.