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, 8:25-9:25 am (preceded by welcome, special tribute, and announcements)
Performing Arts Center (across the street from Egan)

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, 8:10-9:10 am (preceded by announcements)
Performing Arts Center (across the street from Egan)

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, 8:05-9:05 am (preceded by announcements)
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.


Every year, the winners of AOS’s Early Professional Awards are invited to present plenary lectures at the annual meeting.

ep-photo-toews.jpegDavid Toews: “A History of Hybridization in Wood Warblers”

Wednesday, June 26, following Kevin Winker

David joined the Biology Department at Pennsylvania State University in January of 2019. His lab uses genomic tools to address questions about avian evolution and to identify the genes that underlie important ecological traits, such as plumage or migration behavior. His work has primarily focused on New World wood warblers and hybrid zones between closely related warbler species. David was most recently a postdoctoral researcher in Irby Lovette’s lab at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and obtained both his M.Sc. and Ph.D. at the University of British Columbia under the supervision of Darren Irwin. David is passionate about avian natural history and conservation as well as the translation of evolutionary biology research to a broad and diverse audience.

EP photo - hortonKyle Horton: “Bright lights in the big cities: migratory birds’ exposure to artificial light”

Thursday, June 27, following Patty Schwalenberg

Kyle is currently a Rose Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where he is working on leveraging remote-sensing tools such as radar to better understand how many migrants fill the nighttime airspace, where and when migrants are affected by artificial light, and how radar can be used to forecast and mitigate the negative impacts. He received his B.S. in Biology from Canisius College in 2011, where his interest in ornithology and migration ecology was sparked while working alongside Sara Morris. He completed his M.S. in Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in 2013 with Jeffrey Buler and his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Oklahoma in 2017 with Jeffrey Kelly. His work has been published in a broad range of journals and has been covered by NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Science, Nature, and many other media outlets. Kyle works on BirdCast, a Cornell Lab of Ornithology program aimed at making migration forecasts accessible to scientists, conservationists, and bird watchers alike. Kyle will be joining Colorado State University as an assistant professor in fall 2019.

EP photo - odomKaran Odom: “Divas and duos: How sex roles shape bird song evolution”

Friday, June 28, following Carol Vleck

Karan is currently an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow in Mike Webster’s lab at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Her research focuses on the evolution of elaborate traits, specifically song, in female as well as male birds. She combines large-scale phylogenetic comparative methods and field studies to evaluate the evolutionary pressures that have led to similar songs in males and females of some species and strong dimorphism (including loss of female song) in other species. She began her ornithological career under the mentorship of Jed Burtt as an undergraduate at Ohio Wesleyan University and then went on to complete her M.S. with Dan Mennill at the University of Windsor and her Ph.D. with Kevin Omland at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). Karan is also a co-founder of The Female Bird Song Project, a citizen science initiative aimed at increasing female bird song recordings in biological collections. Karan is very interested in promoting women in science, which she does through extensive mentorship of young women researchers and by joining her colleagues in pointing to the prominent role women scientists have played in discoveries about female bird song. She was selected as an Elective Member of AOS in 2017.