Plenary Session II – Senior Award Speakers

2021 Joseph Grinnell Award- Dr. Deedra McClearn

The 2021 recipient of the Joseph Grinnell Award, Dr. Deedra McClearn, is recognized for her impact on graduate and undergraduate students throughout the world. Deedra coordinated and led tropical biology field courses in Costa Rica for the Organization of Tropical Studies (OTS) for over 15 years, developed a semester-long undergraduate program in South Africa, and helped to establish Duke University’s international education program in China. Several letters of support noted Deedra’s dedication to always promoting local communities, one stating she was a fierce “champion of efforts to support and include local students, educators, and researchers into the study abroad programs.” In addition, Deedra has been a leader in developing assessment tools for academic programs. She has developed workshops helping educators to implement dynamic, active, and inquiry-based learning into courses that continue to influence generations of students. In “retirement”, Deedra continues to play an active role in scientific and educational programs. One of her current projects is to assemble, evaluate, and archive many of the long-term data sets that are associated with the OTS sites. Deedra is also working with an international team to develop innovative modules for tropical biology courses that will be freely available online for any educators to use. The many letters of support from Deedra’s former students document her personal dedication to fostering student success. One nominator’s letter stated, “She has touched our lives in very powerful ways, setting us up for success as graduate students, continuing as a supportive and instructive mentor when we were post-docs, and maintaining an active role in our lives and now, in the lives of our own students.” Congratulations to Dr. Deedra McClearn, who is truly one of the world’s leaders in education!

2021 Leopold Award – Dr. Thomas E. Lacher Jr.

The 2021 recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award is Dr. Thomas E. Lacher Jr. of Texas A&M University. Dr. Lacher has been a prolific researcher for almost 40 years, conducting research in over 100 countries, including 60 tropical countries during their tenure as Senior Vice-President and Executive Director of the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (the research division of Conservation International). He is a member of the Climate Change Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and co-chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission/ Small Mammal Specialist Group. He has (co) authored or edited 13 books and monographs and over 215 research articles, including works such as volumes 6 & 7 of Handbook of Mammals of the World, supervised dozens of graduate students, and taught hundreds of undergraduate students. Dr. Lacher was nominated for his “(1) strong scholarly contributions to mammalian conservation, ecology, and ecotoxicology; (2) his commitment to and success in educating and training the next generation of conservation biologists; and (3) his enduring engagement with and leadership of various international conservation organizations that use science to inform policy and management.”

2021 C. Hart Merriam Award – Dr. Michael R. Willig

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.