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Kiirsti OwenKiirsti Owen birdwatching at the Cape May Bird Observatory after she won the best student presentation award at the joint meeting of the Association of Field Ornithologists and the Wilson Ornithological Society.

Good news for avian conservation earns student best presentation award at international conference

A presentation on bird biodiversity in tropical forests won accolades for UWindsor graduate student Kiirsti Owen last week at the joint annual meeting of the Association of Field Ornithologists and the Wilson Ornithological Society.

Ornithologists gathered from across North America in Cape May, New Jersey, to discuss the latest advances in avian research. Owen’s research won the prize for the best student presentation at the conference.

“My presentation was about our research on how bird communities are recovering in regenerating tropical dry forests,” said Owen, a master’s student in the Department of Integrative Biology. “I think people enjoyed my talk because it’s a good-news story for conservation.”

Working in the dry forests of northwestern Costa Rica, Owen showed that when tropical forests mature, avian biodiversity increases.

“We’ve shown that birds are benefitting from the impressive restoration efforts in Guanacaste, Costa Rica,” she said.

Owen said she was pleased by the recognition.

“It was such an honour just to present my research at this international conference,” she said. “Then to stand up in front of hundreds of ornithologists, including some of North America’s leading researchers in this field, and be given the top student award… That is something I will never forget.”

Karan Odom, a University of Windsor alum who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell University, was in the audience.

“As a University of Windsor alumnus, I was really proud of Kiirsti for winning the best presentation award at this meeting,” Dr. Odom said. “It was a big meeting, with more than 300 ornithologists from across North America. It was so exciting to see Kiirsti win this award for delivering such a great presentation.”

Professor Dan Mennill, Owen’s faculty supervisor, noted that the Association of Field Ornithologists and the Wilson Ornithological Society are two of the oldest scientific societies in the field, sharing a rich tradition of outstanding science and conservation practices.

“Kiirsti’s exciting findings on tropical biodiversity, and her excellent presentation skills, contributed to this best presentation award,” Dr. Mennill said. “At an international meeting of scientists from across North America, her award is a truly great moment for University of Windsor!”