Plenary Session II – 2020 Senior Award Speakers


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The 2019 recipient of the Joseph Grinnell Award is Dr. Donald Kaufman, Professor of Biology at Kansas State University and Director of the Konza Prairie Research Natural Area. At Kansas State University, Don taught Mammalogy, Wildlife Management, and General Biology for over 35 years.  Students universally regarded Don’s classes as the best in their curriculum.  For his inspiration of students, Don was recognized by K-State as an “Extraordinary Teacher.”  In addition to traditional classroom teaching, Don regularly engaged in public outreach education through the Konza Prairie Biological Station. Don has sponsored 6 PhD students, 8 MS/MA students, 2 postdoctoral fellows, 23 undergraduate research projects, and served on an additional 33 graduate committees. He was nominated for the Grinnell Award by several of his former graduate and undergraduate students.  These students uniformly praised Don for his level of investment in their development as scholars, and all credit him for their own lifelong passion and commitment to mammalogy and education. Don’s research with his students has led to over 180 publications.  His work and that of his students has focused on small mammal community ecology in the tallgrass prairies of North America.  His immense contributions to our understanding of mammalian ecology in prairie systems has led to his recognition as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  The National Science Foundation has repeatedly sought Don’s expertise to further develop their programs to maintain long-term ecological research and biological field stations.  At a regional level, Don has applied his knowledge of mammalian ecology and evolution to the development of scientifically-informed wildlife management and conservation programs throughout the Central Plains.


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The 2019 recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award is Dr. Bernal Rodriguez-Herrera of the University of Costa Rica. Dr. Rodriguez-Herrera’s research contributions are numerous and highly influential. The principal focus of his work on mammals has concerned mostly bats throughout Latin America. His principal research foci are: 1) the ecology of tent-making bats 2) describing new species and geographic distributions of bats throughout Latin America 3) application of gathered data in the advancement of conservation programs, and 4) public outreach and education, particularly for school children. Every letter of support spoke of Bernal’s extreme dedication and commitment to bat conservation and the importance of his work. Dr. Rodriguez-Herrera is the Academic and Research Director of the Tirimbina Biological Reserve, an organisation dedicated to conserving a 345 hectare wildlife refuge in the northern Costa Rica and the Founder and Coordinator of the Costa Rican Conservation Bat Programme (PCMCR) as well as the Outgoing Coordinator of the Latin American Bat Conservation Network (RELCOM). He has won numerous awards recognizing his impactful contributions to conservation, including the Ford Motor Company Award for Conservation and Environment (2002 and 2003) and the prestigious Whitley Award for Nature Conservancy (2012 and Continuation Funding in 2014).


The 2019 recipient of the C. Hart Merriam Award is Dr. Hopi E. Hoekstra of Harvard University. She obtained her B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in Integrative Biology (Highest Honors), and Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Washington. Professor Hoekstra rapidly advanced her career at several well-regarded institutions before joining Harvard University as the Curator of Mammals. She is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a Member of the Broad Institute, and currently resides in an endowed Professorial Chair in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Hoekstra has 81 high-quality publications focused primarily on genetics, evolution and behavior. She is an evolutionary geneticist, who principally conducts research on the molecular basis of adaptation in wild mammals. Five of her papers have become “citation classics,” receiving ≥ 500 citations in high-end journals. Dr. Hoekstra has 28 publications with ≥ 100 citations, and has amassed a total of > 11,000 citations—an exceptional record of accomplishment. Dr. Hoekstra’s contributions to science have not gone unnoticed. She was awarded the Ernst Mayr Prize from the Society for Systematic Biologists, the Young Investigator Award from the American Society of Naturalists, the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Young Investigator Award, and the Richard Lounsbery Award from the National Academy of Sciences. She is an Elected Fellow of The American Philosophical Society, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and The National Academy of Sciences.