Archbold’s Dr. Reed Bowman wins prestigious ornithology award

Dr. Reed Bowman, Director of the Avian Ecology Program at Archbold Biological Station, received the Margaret Morse Nice Medal from the Wilson Ornithological Society. This award is “the premier ornithological award bestowed by the Wilson Ornithological Society” and is given to individuals who “exemplify scientific curiosity, creativity and insight, concern for the education of young and amateur ornithologists, and leadership as an innovator and mentor,” said Dr. Sara Morris, past President of the organization.

Dr. Bowman received this award on June 7, 2018 at the joint meeting of the Wilson Ornithological Society and the Association of Field Ornithologists in Chattanooga, TN.  At the meeting, he gave the Margaret Morse Nice Plenary Lecture titled Change on the long-term study of the Florida Scrub-Jay: A fifty-year perspective. In his presentation, Dr. Bowman provided an overview of the ongoing study of Florida Scrub-Jays at Archbold, research which in its 50th year and is the longest continuous study of marked (banded) birds in North America. Dr. Bowman, like Margaret Morris Nice, has dedicated his career to the long-term study of the life history of birds.

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Dr. Reed Bowman (center) is congratulated by members of the Avian Ecology Program at Archbold after being honored with the Margaret Morse Nice Medal, a premier award bestowed by the Wilson Ornithological Society. Photo by Young Ha Suh.

Dr. Bowman noted that “enduring methods such as bird banding, combined with new technology and techniques, such as DNA sequencing and aerial mapping using drones” allow his research group to study changes over decades, which can be used to improve the conservation of this threatened species. “Dr. Bowman’s continued incorporation of new technologies into a long-term study is just one way he models the virtue of innovation in science,” said Archbold’s Executive Director, Dr. Hilary Swain.

This research has been impactful to both the scientific and conservation communities. Dr. Morris noted that his research has “focused on the effects of urbanization on the demography and social biology of the Florida Scrub-Jay, as well as on the effects of multiple resource management practices including grazing, forestry, human recreation, military training and endangered species management on Florida Scrub-Jays, Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers, and the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, all federally listed birds.”

Dr. Bowman noted that all of this work relies on a network of collaborators, from beginning students to seasoned professionals representing many fields of expertise. He has mentored nearly 70 post-baccalaureate interns at Archbold, as well as eight Masters and two PhD students. Dr. Bowman commented that training young scientists in one of the most rewarding and important aspects of his job. “One of these young scientists may yet make the most important discovery from the data we have collected over the last 50 years,” Dr. Bowman said.  Dr. Morris called Dr. Bowman “a role model for service to the scientific community” noting his involvement with “numerous scientific societies, including serving as President of the Association of Field Ornithologists and as a Fellow of the American Ornithological Society; as reviewer, associate, and guest editor of scientific publications; and as contributor to conservation and recovery plans.”

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Dr. Reed Bowman (right) accepts the Margaret Morse Nice Medal from Dr. Sara Morris, President of the Wilson Ornithological Society, in recognition of his contributions to the field of ornithology. Photo by Young Ha Suh.

The medal Dr. Bowman received is named for Margaret Morse Nice, who is recognized as a pioneering woman in ornithology due to her landmark life history studies of the Song Sparrow, and service as President of the Wilson Ornithological Society in 1937 and Fellow of the American Ornithologists Union. Nobel-laureate and friend of Morse Nice, Konrad Lorenz, described her as, “a naturalist in the truest sense of the word. She combined a poet’s appreciation of nature’s beauty with a scientist’s analytical mind.”

The staff and board of Archbold are proud to see Dr. Bowman’s contributions recognized with this prestigious award. Dr. Bowman is the second scientist at Archbold to receive this honor. His mentor, Dr. Glen E. Woolfenden, who began the Florida Scrub-Jay study at Archbold in 1969, was awarded the Margaret Morse Nice Medal in 2001. “Having two recipients of this award from the same institution is evidence of two enduring legacies at Archbold: extraordinary scientific research and dedicated mentorship,” noted Executive Director Swain.

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