Avian discoveries earn research prize for doctoral alum

Luis SandovalLuis Sandoval delivers an acceptance speech upon receiving the TWAS-CONICIT Prize in San José, Costa Rica.

While researching his doctoral thesis in biological sciences at the University of Windsor, Luis Sandoval (PhD 2014) identified two new species of ground sparrow in his native country of Costa Rica.

Now his contributions have been recognized with an award called a “truly outstanding honour” by his doctoral supervisor.

Dr. Sandoval, now a faculty member at the University of Costa Rica, was one of two honorees to receive the TWAS-CONICIT Prize for Young Scientists at a ceremony August 30 in the nation’s capital, San José. The award is made by The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the National Council for Scientific and Technological Research, known by its Spanish acronym CONICIT.

“The award highlights outstanding research from young faculty in Costa Rica, fresh out of their PhD,” explained UWindsor biology professor Dan Mennill, who oversaw Sandoval’s PhD. “In Canada, we have the Top 40 Under 40 prizes. By analogy, this is Costa Rica’s Top 2 Under 40 prize.”

Dr. Mennill called Sandoval’s research productivity unparalleled for a young ornithologist.

During his doctoral studies, Sandoval published 12 papers on the ecology, behaviour, and evolutionary biology of Central American ground sparrows. Concurrently, he published more than 10 independent research papers, wrote a field guide to the shorebirds of Costa Rica, and co-edited a book on conservation of tropical birds.

“His work provided a much better understanding of this poorly-studied group of birds,” Mennill said.

Sandoval has started his own laboratory, where he and his students study bioacoustics, evolutionary biology, and the effect of urban noise on Costa Rican wildlife.

“I am very honoured to receive this prize,” he said. “My work has provided deeper insight into the ecology and evolution of Central American birds, including the amazing biodiversity of birds in Costa Rica.”

Read more about Sandoval’s prize and his research here and here in Costa Rica's national newspaper La Nación.