On May 14, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology presented Rainforest Trust President Robert Ridgely with its prestigious Arthur A. Allen Award. The ceremony took place Tuesday evening at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library in New York City.
Ridgely is a leading authority on neo-tropical birds and has authored and co-authored many books on the subject, including classics such as Birds of South America, Birds of Ecuador, and Birds of Panama, which set a new standard for birding field guides. His extensive field work also led to the discovery of seven news species; perhaps the best known being the discovery of the Jocotoco Antpitta, which Ridgely found in Ecuador in 1997.
Established in 1967, the Arthur A. Allen Award is given to pioneers in the field of ornithology that have made significant contributions towards making the subject accessible to the public at large. The award has been given only three times in the last twenty years.
“We are extremely pleased to be honoring Bob’s achievements and contributions at the interface between professional and amateur ornithology with the 2013 Arthur Allen Award,” said Dr. John Fitzpatrick, Cornell Lab director.
Speaking to a packed room, Ridgely recounted his fortuitous introduction to neo-tropical birds, which took place during the late 1960s. Expecting a Vietnam deployment after enlisting in the U.S. Army, Ridgely was surprised to be stationed instead in Panama. It was there that his passion for birding caught fire and he decided to become an ornithologist. Ridgely went on to earn an MS in Zoology from Duke University, and a PhD in Forestry and Environmental Studies from Yale University.
“As a fellow ornithologist and conservationist, I am proud to walk in the footsteps of Robert Ridgely,” said Dr. Paul Salaman, CEO of Rainforest Trust. “Bob’s no nonsense attitude towards conservation is borne from decades of field experience and observations. His work provides strong proof that protected areas are the bedrock upon which the protection of birds and their environment depends.”
“It’s hard to overestimate Bob’s achievement. He has successfully bridged the gap between the academic and conservation worlds and in the process has inspired a whole generation of conservationists and birders,” Salaman said.
Ridgely has previously been awarded the Eisenmann Medal by the Linnaean Society of New York (2001); the Chandler Robbins Award from the American Birding Association (2006); and the Ralph W. Schreiber Conservation Award by the American Ornithologists’ Union (2011).
In addition to his position at Rainforest Trust, Ridgely is also co-founder and president of the Ecuadorian nonprofit Fundación Jocotoco. His work with Jocotoco has led to the establishment of ten nature reserves, which protect some of the Ecuador’s most threatened bird species.
To see more photos of the award ceremony, you can visit our flickr page.
Read more about Dr. Robert Ridgely on our Staff page.