Keynote & Plenary Speakers


The theme of this meeting encompasses many of the scientific questions that unite us as ornithologists, from the evolution of species’ ranges and hybrid zones to dispersal and migration ecology, as well as conservation issues that span gradients from urban to rural and from temperate to tropical. 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 for birds and conservation efforts.


Tuesday, June 25, 7-8 pm
Dena’ina Civic & Convention Center
(open to public; AOS reception to follow)

author photo aos[1]Caroline Van Hemert: “The Sun is a Compass: A Journey to the Arctic’s Edge”

Caroline Van Hemert is a biologist, writer, and adventurer whose journeys have taken her from the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean to the swamps of the Okavango Delta. Her articles about birds, travel, and adventure have appeared or are forthcoming in the New York Times, Audubon, Birding, the LA Times, Outside, and more. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and M.A. in creative writing from Western Washington University and has worked for various universities, NGOs, and government agencies. She is currently a research wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center and studies avian and wildlife health in the north. When she’s not traveling, she divides her time between a remote off-the-grid cabin in southeast Alaska and a cozy home in downtown Anchorage, where she lives with her husband and two young sons. She is the author of The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds, the gripping story of a biologist’ s journey from Washington State to high above the Arctic Circle to rediscover birds, the natural world, and her own love of science.


winker photoKevin Winker: “Arcs of Time and the Science of Birds”

Wednesday, June 26, 8:30-9:30 am (preceded by welcome and announcements at 8am)
Egan Civic & Convention Center

Kevin is the Brina Kessel Curator of Birds at the University of Alaska Museum and a professor in the Department of Biology and Wildlife at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota and followed this with two postdoctoral positions at the Smithsonian Institution, one at the National Zoo and the other at the National Museum of Natural History. He moved to Alaska in 1997. His research focuses on the patterns and processes of avian evolution at the population, subspecies, and species levels, particularly in relation to seasonal migration. His research associated with collections is broader, including avian responses to climate change and pathogen transport by birds, and actively addresses aspects of management, conservation, and taxonomy. His strong commitments to students and to the broad development of bird collections have been important parts of his career. He is an AOS Fellow and has served as a member of the AOS Council, as well as on the Committee for Bird Collections and the Committee on Classification and Nomenclature for many years.

Kevin lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, with his wife Rose Meier, who also earned her Ph.D., in botany, at the University of Minnesota. Both enjoy their lives as modern Beringians.

patty-schwalenbergPatty Schwalenberg: “Alaskan Migratory Birds: Conservation through Co-Management”

Thursday, June 27, 8:30-9:30 am (preceded by welcome and announcements at 8am)
Egan Civic & Convention Center

Patty is the Executive Director of the Chugach Regional Resources Commission (CRRC), a nonprofit inter-Tribal fish and wildlife organization located in Anchorage, Alaska. She is also Executive Director of the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council, where she works on setting regulations for the spring-summer subsistence harvests of migratory birds. Patty is an enrolled member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, located in northern Wisconsin, where she began her career in Tribal natural resources. She moved with her family to Alaska in 1992. Patty uses her passion for the natural world to organize Tribal Initiatives from the grassroots level and has been honored by the Alaska Conservation Foundation with the 2017 Caleb Pungowiyi Award for Outstanding Achievements by an Alaska Native Individual or Organization; by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the 2017 Regional Director’s Excellence Award as an Outstanding Partner; and by the Native American Fish and Wildlife Society with the Chief Sealth Award for Outstanding Contributions toward the Preservation, Protection and Prudent Conservation of this Nation’s Vital Fish and Wildlife Resources in 2015. Most recently, the CRRC, under Patty’s direction, received an Honorable Mention for the 2018 Climate Adaptation Leadership Award for Natural Resources in the Tribal Government category from the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies.  

Patty lives in Anchorage with her dog Zoe and enjoys spending time with her three children and seven grandchildren, who also live in Anchorage.

IMG_9679Carol Vleck: “How Birds Work — Insights into Avian Biology: Past, Present and Future”

Friday, June 28, 8:30-9:30 am (preceded by welcome and announcements at 8am)
Egan Civic & Convention Center

Carol Vleck is a professor emeritus in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology at Iowa State University. She received her Ph.D. at UCLA under the direction of Tom Howell and George Bartholomew. After postdocs at the University of Washington, State University of New York at Buffalo, and University of Adelaide, South Australia, she held faculty positions at the University of Arizona and Iowa State University. Her research focuses on physiological ecology and hormonal control of reproductive behavior, especially in birds living in extreme environments. She has worked on incubation behavior of hummingbirds, water and energy balance in avian eggs, megapode egg physiology in South Australia, hormonal control of reproduction in rain-breeding birds and of cooperatively breeding Harris’s Hawks and Mexican Jays in Arizona, and on parental behavior and its control in Adélie Penguins in Antarctica. Most recently, she and her students studied the physiology of aging in Tree Swallows, with a particular emphasis on telomere biology. She has been an AOS Fellow since 1993 and served on the AOU Council and the Cooper Ornithological Society Board of Directors.

Carol currently lives in Green Valley, Arizona, with her husband and professional colleague, David Vleck, where they enjoy volunteer work, grandchildren, and birding.