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Name that amazing woman in ornithology! These are the shoulders of giants...

Ellen Paul

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How many of these incredible women in ornithology can you identify? NO GOOGLING!


Many of these women have had equally brilliant male ornithological spouses. Bonus points if you can name those men.


1. This woman was the only female graduate student of Aldo Leopold. She was known for her work on Greater Prairie-Chicken and on birds of prey. Here's the give-away clue: she called her field assistants "gabboons."


2. This woman was the first female Fellow of the American Ornithologists' Union. Though an Easterner, she wrote the classic Handbook of the Birds of the Western States, based in large part on her travels through California and the New Mexico and Arizona territories. 


3. There is nothing ordinary about this extraordinary woman and her delightful little gray songbirds. She has been awarded the Margaret Morse Nice medal by the Wilson Ornithological Society and the Coues Award by the American Ornithologists' Union.


4. Like so many others, an incidental course in natural history lured this tropical biologist away from her planned pre-med major. Elected to the National Academy of Science in 1988, she is also a recipient of the Alexander Skutch award for Excellence in Tropical Ornithology (awarded by the Association of Field Ornithologists). She also managed to find time to serve as the president of the Cooper Ornithological Society. 


5. When birds and planes collide, this is the go-to woman! 


6. To know her is to love her, as Tiko and her many ornithological progeny would attest. She has brilliant plumage, unlike the shorebirds and waterbirds she is known for studying, along with not a few reptiles and amphibians.


7. Imagine seeing evolution as it happens by watching just a single bird. Imagine having a single field site for 40 years, heirs of Darwin himself. Imagine being awarded the Darwin-Wallace medal, an honor bestowed only once every 50 years, as well as the Kyoto Prize. And from the ornithologists, the Loye and Alden Miller Research Award (Cooper Ornithological Society) and the Margaret Morse Nice Medal (Wilson Ornithological Society). 


8. You can have three kids, go back to grad school, and earn your doctorate at age 45. Some might think that loony,but 40 years later, she can still yodel with the best of them!


9. For the past FIFTY years, this ornithologist has lived with her avian subjects; she makes do without running water or electricity while terning the place into a luxury hotel for 3,000 pairs of shorebirds. 


Give up? Answers are in the attached file. 




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  • 4 months later...

Hi Ellen Paul! I am a staff member at the Detroit Audubon Society and I am putting together our Summer Newsletter right now. I think your list of women ornithologists is great - may I re-print it in our newsletter with credit? Thanks! 

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