Plenary Speakers

Celebrating Connections: Birds Across Borders

We see this meeting theme as multi-faceted and really bridging all the major science that unites us as ornithologists. From evolution of species’ ranges and hybrid zones, to dispersal and migration ecology, to conservation issues that span geographic areas from urban to rural, from temperate to tropical. The theme is also particularly appropriate given that Tucson is a border town and we plan to have a special symposium on conservation and border issues specifically. Finally, in line with this theme, we have a stellar line-up of plenary speakers. Each of these researchers does truly integrative work that has implications in all three of these areas.

Jeff Brawn, University of Illinois, with a Toucan

Jeff Brawn 

Prospects for tropical birds and a changing world

Jeff Brawn currently serves as Professor and Head of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, a position he has held for 8 years.  Jeff received a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1975, a M.S. in Wildlife from the University of Missouri in 1979, and a Ph.D. in Zoology-Ecology from Northern Arizona University in 1985.  Jeff’s graduate research focused on the population biology of cavity nesting birds.  After two postdoctoral positions with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), Jeff joined the scientific staff of the Illinois Natural History Survey and later the faculty of the University of Illinois.  Jeff is an elected Fellow of the AOS and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Jeff has served on numerous service committees and editorial boards of ornithological societies and was Treasurer of the (then) AOU from 2004-2008.  Jeff studies basic and applied ecology with an emphasis on the biology of birds.  He has conducted research in the Midwestern U.S. on issues such as habitat fragmentation and the local diversity of birds, prescribed fire and avian populations, the role of birds in the transmission dynamics of West Nile Virus, and the effects of agricultural practices on the sustainability of bird populations.  Dr. Brawn has worked in the Republic of Panama for over 30 years where – in collaboration with STRI, grad students and colleagues – he has studied the demography, life histories, and behavior of tropical forest birds.  Recently, Jeff has explored relationships among expected climate change, especially altered precipitation regimes, land use practices, and the viability of tropical bird populations.  


Rebecca Kimball, University of Florida, with a Gyrfalcon

Rebecca Kimball

The avian tree of life: crossing the borders among disciplines

Rebecca Kimball is a Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Florida. She received her B.A. in Biology from Dartmouth College (1985), and her Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico (1995). She conducted postdoctoral research at the University of New Mexico and Ohio State University before joining the faculty at the University of Florida in 2001, where she also is affiliated with the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Genetics Institute, the Center for Smell and Taste, and the Florida Museum of Natural History. Rebecca is an evolutionary biologist with a research program that incorporates both field studies and molecular analyses to examine evolutionary patterns and processes. Many of her current projects are focused on estimating avian phylogenies both within specific groups as well as across all birds, where her primary interest is in understanding trait evolution. She also has ongoing projects in behavioral ecology and population/conservation genetics in several different taxa, as well as projects that link changes in the genome with changes at the organismal level in an evolutionary framework to elucidate proximate and ultimate causes of change. In addition to her research, Rebecca has contributed strongly to the broader discipline of ornithology: She is a Fellow and currently serves as Treasurer of the American Ornithological Society, serves as has served on Council and committees for AOS and other societies, and is an editor at Ibis.



Ian MacGregor Fors, Institute of Ecology, Veracruz, Mexico

Ian MacGregor Fors

Living in the Anthropocene: Birds facing a changing world

Ian MacGregor-Fors is a researcher at the Institute of Ecology (INECOL) in Mexico. His passion for birds since adolescence lead him to study Biology at the University of Guadalajara (Mexico), receiving a M.Sc. (2008) and a Ph.D. (2010), both with honors, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He has focused his research on untangling the response of wildlife communities to anthropogenic ecological disturbances with an important focus on birds, as well as the role of invasive birds as avian diversity drivers. As the author/co-author of more than 65 peer-reviewed publications and diverse popular science pieces, Ian is highly committed to filling the knowledge gap regarding the ecology of Neotropical birds, as we all as other wildlife groups, in human-modified systems. Ian is currently on the Advisory Board of the International Network Urban Biodiversity & Design (URBIO), seeking to promote the implementation of the United Nations ‘Convention on Biological Diversity’ (CBD) in urban areas. He was Associate Editor for Landscape and Urban Planning from 2014 to 2016 (where he is currently Editorial Advisor), and is presently Associate Editor for the Journal of Urban Ecology, Urban Naturalist, and Huitzil, the Mexican Journal of Ornithology. Ian is confident that the use of evidence-based knowledge from the physical, ecological, and social components of human-modified systems can result in biodiverse and healthier landscapes.