The Association of Field Ornithologists Alexander F. Skutch Award for Excellence in Neotropical Ornithology is awarded periodically to a deserving ornithologist nominated by peers and selected by the Skutch Medal committee of the AFO. This year an award is presented to James W. Wiley [currently affiliated with University of Maryland Eastern Shore and the Western Foundation of Vertebrate Zoology in recognition of his exemplary research contributions to Neotropical ornithology, mentoring students and professionals, and his commitment to the conservation of birds and their habitats in the in the Latin American – Caribbean region.
As a bit of background information, In 1997, in celebration of our 75th anniversary, the AFO created the Alexander F. Skutch Award for Excellence in Neotropical Ornithology. The award recognizes career accomplishments, particularly, although not limited to, research relating to life history studies of Neotropical birds. Criteria may include encouragement and mentoring of students, particularly Latin Americans, making research accessible to the public through popular publications as well as publishing work in scientific journals. A goal of the award is to recognize individuals whose careers will stand as models for excellence in Neotropical ornithology. The first award was presented by Dr. Skutch in San José, Costa Rica to Dr. F. Gary Stiles (1997); subsequent winners include Herbert A. Raffaele (1999), Mercedes Foster (2006) and John O'Neill (2010).
Dr. Wiley has made exemplary research contributions to Neotropical ornithology, mentoring students and professionals in the Latin American-Caribbean (LAC) region, and commitment to the conservation of birds and their habitats in the LAC region. In his nomination credentials, it was noted that much of his research, while valued for its scientific merit, has contributed greatly to management efforts for the recovery of endangered species and their habitats in the Caribbean that benefits the public as well. He also was one of the co-authors of the seminal field guides to the birds of the West Indies and the birds of Hispaniola. These field guides have significantly contributed to the understanding the ornithology of the region. Dr. Wiley was also a founding member of the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB), and served as the first editor of their scientific journal. He established a legacy of training and mentoring students and young professionals in ornithology and conservation. Jim did this both formally through his supervision of the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit at both Grambling University and the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore and informally through field work, communications, and scientific societies. Jim's generosity and dedication to his students is legendary.
In summary, Dr. Wiley was nominated and chosen as the 2014 recipient of the Alexander F. Skutch Award for Excellence in Neotropical Ornithology award because he best exemplifies the qualities this award seeks to recognize and Jim is the kind of professional who Alexander Skutch would want to thank for his efforts.