Cooper Ornithological Society
Awards and Grants

Professional Awards

Young Professional Awards

Student Awards

Honorary Members

Katma Award

The newest award offered by the Cooper Ornithological Society is the Katma
Award, proposed and sponsored by Dr. Robert W. Storer. This award is intended to encourage the formulation of new ideas that could change the course of thinking about the biology of birds. It will be given to the author(s) of research articles, short communications, or commentaries (e.g., editorials, reviews) of any length published in any scientific venue that offers unconventional ideas or innovative approaches, backed by a well-reasoned argument. The Katma Award will be given only when it is merited, no more than once a year. A 3-person Selection Committee will annually review all papers published by the COS in the previous year, but may decide that none deserve the award that year. The award will be approximately $2500 plus a suitable certificate and will be given at the COS annual meeting. In addition, Katma funds may be used for activities that are consistent with the award, such as plenary lectures, symposia, and support of publication. A full explanation of the Katma Award was published in 2003, Volume 105(4):843 of The Condor.

The 2013 Katma Award goes to Kenneth P. Dial, Brandon E. Jackson, and Paolo Segre for their 2008 paper “A fundamental avian wing-stroke provides a new perspective on the evolution of flight,” which appeared in Nature 451:985–989. The origin of flight in birds has perplexed ornithologists for centuries. There are two competing ideas, namely that flapping flight arose (1) from cursorial ancestors, whose forelimbs were transformed into wings (“bottom up”), or (2) from arboreal ancestors that glided from tree to tree (“top down”). In recent years the paradigm has shifted from top down to bottom up, although not without significant angst. A conceptual problem for accepting either option has been deciphering the adaptive value of a proto-wing as it was gradually transformed from a stubby forelimb into a tool for propulsion. Fossil evidence has yet to yield much of relevance to the question of how flight arose.

In a series of papers that was summarized in Nature, Kenneth P. Dial, Brandon E. Jackson, and Paolo Segre have proposed an innovative solution, drawing data from a completely unanticipated source. Using kinematic studies of the mechanics of immature and flightless birds in more than 20 diverse species, they showed that the upstroke of flapping wings, even in newly hatched birds, is used to assist in climbing near-vertical structures by providing downward force. The upstroke is also used to control any subsequent descent, which is a precursor to flapping flight. Their idea provides new support to the ground-up theory of avian flight.

Dial et al. used careful and comparative observations to form the basis for their “ontogenetic-transitional wing hypothesis.” It proposes that “incremental adaptive stages leading to the evolution of avian flight correspond behaviorally and morphologically to transitional stages observed in ontogenetic forms.” Their hypothesis comes from recognizing a link between a behavior in an extant bird and the origins of flight in an utterly novel way. This idea resolves problems inherent in existing hypotheses. It is the first to show a plausible mechanism for how avian flight could have originated via an exaptation for climbing and then be modified into the mechanism seen today in modern birds. This idea represents a fundamental change in ornithological thinking that exemplifies the reason the Katma Award was created.

Loye and Alden Miller Research Award

At its 1993 Annual Meeting, the Cooper Ornithological Society initiated the Loye and Alden Miller Research Award, which is given for lifetime achievement in ornithological research. Loye Holmes Miller (1874-1970) began his teaching career in 1904 at the Los Angeles State Normal School which later became UCLA, and he retired in 1943. It was only in the last nine years of his active service that the Ph.D. degree was awarded and, in that time, he had two M.A. and two Ph.D. students. Alden Holmes Miller (1906-1965), Loye's son, began his teaching career in 1931 in the Department of Zoology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. He remained on the faculty until his death 34 years later. Miller sponsored 28 Ph.D. students, 26 of them in avian biology. Among their students, those with a Ph.D. in avian biology total 166. Additionally, there are at least 40 whose Ph.D. topics were non-avian. To view their biographies, go
1993. George A. Bartholomew
1994. Storrs Olson
1995. Barbara B. DeWolfe
1996. William R. Dawson
1997. Robert W. Storer
1998. Russell Balda
1999. Gordon H. Orians
2000. Ernst W. Mayr
2001. Frank A. Pitelka
2002. Richard T. Holmes
2003. B. Rosemary and Peter Grant
2004. Alexander Skutch
2005. John A. Wiens
2006. Robert E. Ricklefs
2007. Robert B. Payne
2008. Peter R. Marler
2009. Frances C. James
2010. Keith A. Hobson
2011. Susan Haig
2012. Thomas Martin
2013. Trevor Price

Painton Award

This award is a cash prize of at least $1,000 and is given only in odd-numbered years to the author of an outstanding paper published in the four preceding years in The Condor. At the discretion of the committee, but with the approval of the board, no award need be given. Funds for the award come from a bequest from Mr. Painton. By vote of the board, society funds may be used to increase the amount of this award.

View previous Harry R. Painton award recipients and download their winning articles here>>.

The Cooper Ornithological Society Young Professional Awards

for the joint meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union (132nd Stated Meeting),  Cooper Ornithological Society (84th Annual Meeting) and Society for Canadian Ornithologists in Estes Park, Colorado, 23-27 September 2014 (AOU/COS/SCO 2014).

The Young Professional Presentation Award (YPA) recognizes early-career ornithological researchers for their outstanding contributions to ornithology. Two awardees will be selected to present (~30 minutes each) at the Young Professional Award Plenary session held at AOU/COS/SCO 2014 meeting.  In addition, the two awardees will receive a cash prize, travel support to the AOU/COS/SCO 2014 meeting, and will be the honorary guest at a reception attended by the COS president, officers, and the YPA committee. Candidates must be COS members and must have either 1) graduated within three years of the annual meeting or 2) at the time of the meeting be in the final phase of graduate studies (last 9 months). In addition, candidates must be sole author (or senior author, if the presentation is co-authored) of the presentation and are expected to be first author of published papers reporting the research. Applicants will be notified by June 2, 2014. The Young Professional Award has a limit of one per person.

View the previous YPA recipients here.

To apply for the YPA for the AOU/COS/SCO 2014 joint meeting, submit the following items (as a single pdf attachment) via e-mail to Victoria J. Dreitz ( by 30 April 2014.
1.    2-page curriculum vitae indicating graduation date
2.    A mini-paper of your research following the guidelines of ARTICLES submission outlined in Nature (  Body of text (abstract through discussion) should not exceed 1,500 words; literature cited, tables, figures, and figure captions are not included in the word count, but figures and tables are limited to 4 total.

Please see the conference website for additional information on the conference, awards, and other opportunities.

Student Awards

Several presentation and travel awards are available to students attending the COS annual meeting. Learn more about the benefactors of these awards here>>.

A. Brazier Howell Award

The A. Brazier Howell Award is given for the best paper presented at the annual meeting. The candidate must be an amateur, a student, or must have received his/her degree since the last annual meeting, and must be the sole author (or senior author, if the paper is co-authored). The recipient must be a member of the society. This award comes with a cash award, one year paid membership in the COS, and a book on some ornithological topic. Brazier Howell was noted for his research on birds and mammals during the early 1900’s, and created the endowment that allows COS to publish The Condor and Studies in Avian Biology.

Frances F. Roberts Award

The Frances F. Roberts Award is given for an outstanding paper presented at the annual meeting. The candidate must be an amateur, a student, or must have received his/her degree since the last annual meeting, and must be the sole author (or senior author, if the paper is co-authored). This award comes with a cash award, one year paid membership in COS, and a book on some ornithological topic. Mrs. Roberts was a well known bird photographer and prominent member of the COS during the 1940s to1960s.

Board of Directors Awards

Up to two awards are given annually by the board to those students who present worthy papers or posters at the annual meeting and who do not win either the A. Brazier Howell Award or the Frances F. Roberts Award. The candidate must be an amateur, a student, or must have received his/her degree since the last annual meeting, and must be the sole author (or senior author, if the paper is co-authored). These awards come with a cash award, one year paid membership in COS, and a book on some ornithological topic.

Student Travel Awards

Students or recent graduates presenting a poster or oral paper at the 2014 AOU/COS/SCO meeting may be eligible for a travel or student presentation award. Applications for these are due 30 May 2014. All applicants must also submit a regular scientific abstract through the meeting website by May 30, 2014. Awards are contingent on acceptance of the scientific abstract by the Scientific Program Committee.

Applicants must be:
  1. Sole author or lead author of a poster or oral paper presented by the student at the meeting.
  2. A full-time or recently graduated student. Students graduating the semester prior to the meeting are also eligible for presentation awards. Undergraduate students are also eligible for presentation awards.
  3. A member of the AOU or the COS.
  4. For presentation awards, students can be presenting in a symposium only if their talks are the standard length (15 minutes).  Symposium presenters are eligible for travel awards.
  5. Students are limited to two student travel awards per lifetime from each AOU and COS; students are limited to one presentation award from each AOU and COS.
To apply, please go to: Full application instructions can be found at that site. If you have not already done so, you will need to sign up for Ornithology Exchange.

We anticipate making travel award decisions by July 1, 2014.

Student Presentation Award Application Requirements

To apply for a student presentation award for the 2014 AOU/COS/SCO meeting in Estes Park, students should follow the instructions above regarding Student Travel and Presentation Awards.  The same application process will be used and students will be asked to indicate which award they are applying for, or whether they are applying for both travel and presentation awards.  For additional information about Student Presentation Awards, contact Anna Chalfoun (


Travel awards have a limit of two per person.

A. Brazier Howell, Frances F. Roberts and Board of Directors awards have a limit of one per person.

Award Criteria

Awards will be made based on quality of research and presentation, and preference will be given to students in the final phases of completing their research as opposed to those presenting preliminary findings.

Questions may be directed to Susan Skagen ( or Rolf Koford (

Mewaldt-King Student Research Award

The 23rd annual Mewaldt-King Student Research Awards will be announced by the Cooper Ornithological Society at the 2015 meeting in Norman, Oklahoma. These $1,000 awards are designated in the memory of L. Richard Mewaldt and James R. King to support research that relates to the conservation of birds.  Research may be in any area of ornithology, but studies that involve demographics, breeding biology, or disease ecology may be particularly relevant, especially if the species is endangered, threatened, or otherwise of management concern. Studies of species from threatened ecosystems (e.g. old growth forest, wetlands) or with reference to large-scale conservation issues such as climate or landscape change are also of particular interest.

View the previous years' Mewaldt-King recipients and titles here>>.

Any graduate student (of any nationality) accepted to or enrolled in a Master's or Doctoral program at a university in the U.S. or elsewhere is eligible to apply. You do not need to be a COS member to apply.

2015 Application Deadline.
The application, and a letter from the student's major faculty advisor, must be received by the Mewaldt-King Award Committee on or before 15 January 2015.

Research Proposal Format
  1. Cover page bearing the student's name, academic affiliation, mailing and email addresses, the title of the proposal, and the name and email address of the student's major faculty advisor.
  2. Abstract (250 words).
  3. Introduction, including: (a) relevant background, (b) specific hypotheses to be tested, or questions asked, (c) relevance of proposed research to conservation biology.
  4. Proposed methods, analyses, and timetable.
  5. Tables or figures are optional, and count toward the 6 page limit.
  6. General categories of expenditures and total project budget including current and pending sources of support.
  7. Literature cited (follow format used by Condor; see
  8. Curriculum Vitae (CV)

The proposal abstract and text, including any tables and figures (if included) and budget but excluding literature cited, should not be longer than 6 double-spaced pages with a 12-point font and 1 inch (25 mm) margins.  CV should be no more than three pages.  The entire proposal: cover page, proposal, budget, lit cited, and CV should be submitted as a single document.

Multiple documents will not be accepted.  Proposals that are improperly formatted or exceed page limits will not be reviewed.  Applicants will not receive comments from reviewers.

Application Requirements

All applications must be accompanied by a letter of support (submitted separately, email encouraged) from the applicant's major faculty advisor.  All other materials should be submitted as a single attachment via email directly to the Chair of the committee at the address below.  Acceptable electronic file formats are Word, Rich Text Format, and PDF files.  Files in other formats will not be accepted.  Files should be named using the student's last name and first initial (e.g. SmithC.PDF).  Please include Mewaldt-King in the subject heading of your email.  International students lacking internet access may submit printed copies of their materials by the published deadline and should include a self-addressed envelope to facilitate notification of the committee's decision. 

Dr. Nicole Michel
Chair, Mewaldt-King Award Committee
School of Environment and Sustainability
University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK S7N 5C8 Canada

Joseph Grinnell Student Research Award

This award supports beginning research efforts of Ph.D. graduate students in their first or second year of enrollment. One award of $2500 awards will be designated, in the memory of Joseph Grinnell, to support basic research in any aspect of avian biology. Projects that deal with conservation issues in avian biology should be directed to the Mewaldt-King Research Awards Committee of the Cooper Ornithological Society. Students may not submit a proposal to both award committees in the same year.

View previous years' Joseph Grinnell Award recipients and titles here>>.


This award is open to all graduate students that are members of the COS and originally enrolled in a Doctoral program AFTER August 2011.

2013 Proposal Deadline

Proposals must be submitted electronically on or before 1 JANUARY 2014. Students lacking internet access may submit printed copies of their materials via mail (postmarked by 1 January 2013; see mailing address below) and should include a self-addressed envelope to facilitate notification of the committee's decision. Electronic copies submitted on floppy disks via postal service will NOT be accepted.

Proposal submission

To apply for the award, the student should submit one copy of:
  1. A short research proposal (no longer than 1800 words; see format below),
  2. His/her most current curriculum vitae, and
  3. A letter of support from his/her major faculty advisor. It is encouraged that materials be submitted as attachments via email directly to the chair of the committee 

Scott Stoleson, Ph.D.
USDA Forest Service
Northern Research Station
PO Box 267
Irvine, PA 16329

Acceptable electronic file formats are Word, rich text format, and pdf files. Files in other formats will not be accepted. Files should be named using the student's last name and first initial (e.g., SmithC_proposal.pdf; SmithC_cv.pdf). Please include "Grinnell Award" in the subject heading of the email. The letter of support should be submitted separately by the applicant's major faculty advisor. The letter should address the qualifications of the applicant and the importance of the research project. This letter must also state the academic semester or quarter in which the applicant first entered the Ph.D. program. Otherwise the application will not be considered.


  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction, including: (a) objectives with specific hypotheses to be tested (b) summary of any work completed to date (c) relation to present knowledge (d) significance
  3. Proposed methods, analyses, and timetable
  4. Literature cited. The complete proposal abstract and text, including literature cited, may not be longer than 1800 words (approximately 5 pages, double-spaced).

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