Merriam Award

Chair

Members

  • Sharon A. Jansa
  • Renan Maestri
  • Christine R. Maher
  • Jesús E. Maldonado
  • Mike R. Willig

C. Hart Merriam Award

In 1974, the American Society of Mammalogists established the C. Hart Merriam Award to honor outstanding contributions to mammalogy through research, teaching, and service (Journal of Mammalogy 55:694, 1974). In 1996, the Board of Directors amended these criteria so that the award is now given in recognition of outstanding research in mammalogy. Nominees are typically established scientists who are actively engaged in research and who have made significant contributions to the science of mammalogy over a period of at least 10 years. The recipient is invited to address the Society in a plenary session at its annual meeting, as well as to prepare a manuscript for publication in the Journal of Mammalogy that is based on this presentation.

Nominations for the Merriam Award will be considered without regard to national citizenship and activity in the Society. Click here to see previous awardees.

2021 C. Hart Merriam Award Recipient

The C. Hart Merriam Award is given to eminent scholars in recognition of outstanding research in mammalogy over a period of at least 10 years. C. Hart Merriam was the first chief of the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy of the United States Department of Agriculture (the precursor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and a founding member of the American Ornithologists' Union, the National Geographic Society, and the American Society of Mammalogists; he served as the first President of the American Society of Mammalogists. Among numerous contributions to mammalogy and science, he developed the concept of "life zones" to classify biomes of North America. He is considered the father of mammalogy.

The 2021 recipient of the C. Hart Merriam Award is Dr. Michael R. Willig. Dr. Willig earned his Ph.D. from The University of Pittsburgh. He became an Assistant Professor of Biology at Loyola University, and then moved to Texas Tech University, where he was promoted through the ranks to Professor of Biological Sciences; he also served as Chair of the Department, and Director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences. Dr. Willig then became a Program Director and later Division Director of Environmental Biology at the National Science Foundation. Following that appointment, he moved to the University of Connecticut as a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Founding Director of the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering. Dr. Willig is currently a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Founding Executive Director of the Institute of Environment at the University of Connecticut.

Dr. Willig’s research is multidisciplinary, quantitative, and addresses important questions in ecology, biogeography, and conservation biology. His research has an evolutionary perspective, and involves manipulative and observational studies, as well as modeling. He is an excellent field biologist. Although he has published on a wide variety of organisms, a major thrust of his research continues to involve terrestrial mammals, and aspects of community ecology, biodiversity, and biogeography, especially in the tropics.

Dr. Willig has an impressive record of > 260 publications in high-quality journals, including 45 per-reviewed articles in the past 5 years alone. His papers have received > 25,000 citations, with 4 articles receiving > 1,000 citations. Based in part on that record, he recently was listed among the top 2% of ecologists in the world.

Dr. Willig has been deeply involved as a mentor to numerous students. He oversaw 26 M.S., and 13 Ph.D.’s to the successful completion of their degrees, and fostered the careers of 14 post-doctoral fellows. Dr. Willig also has an incredible record of obtaining extramural funding. He received > 60 major research grants totaling > $37 million US dollars, allowing him to enhance the disciplines of ecology and mammalogy.

Dr. Willig has been an Associate Editor for a Special Edition of Biotropica as well as for Mastozoología Neotropical, Journal of Mammalogy Special Features, Journal of Mammalogy, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, and Ecosphere, Special Feature on High Energy Storms. He also was the Centennial Special Feature Editor for the Journal of Mammalogy. He continues to make major contributions to the field of Mammalogy.

Streaming Presentations 

ASM Members can log into the Business Office site and stream presentations from past winners!

C. Hart Merriam was an enthusiastic naturalist from an early age. In 1871, at 15 years old, he provided specimens of birds and mammals he had collected in upstate New York to the U.S. National Museum of Natural History. Director of the Museum, Spencer Fullerton Baird, saw Merriman’s promise as a natural historian, and in the following year, arranged for him to join Francis V. Hayden’s Geological Survey of the Rocky Mountains as the expedition’s naturalist.

In 1874, Merriam furthered his education by studying natural history and anatomy at the Sheffield Scientific School of Yale University. He subsequently pursued an M.D. in the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, receiving his degree in 1879. While in medical school, Merriam was a founding member of the Linnaean Society of New York and served as its first president. For the 6 years following his graduation, Merriam developed a successful medical practice in his home town of Locust Grove, New York, specializing in the diseases of women. His interest in birds and mammals, however, never waned, and Merriam spent increasing amounts of time studying mammals. In spring of 1883 the young doctor became the surgeon on the Newfoundland sealing vessel Proteus, where he collected numerous specimens for the U.S. National Museum. He became a founding member of the American Ornithologists’ Union in 1883, and later (1903) became a president of that society. He likewise was a founding member of the National Geographic Society (1888). Importantly, his two-volume publication on The Mammals of the Adirondack Region, Northeastern New York appeared in 1884.

 At the age of 30, Merriam’s reputation for meticulous field studies and a vast knowledge of natural history lead to him becoming the first Chief of the newly established Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy in the United States Department of Agriculture in 1885. This was later to become the Bureau of Biological Survey, which he led for 25 years. That agency ultimately became the present-day U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the Department of Interior. In 1886, Merriam married his secretary, Virginia Elizabeth Gosnell, who became his life-long companion and often accompanied him during his field expeditions in the western United States. Merriam promoted his protégé, Vernon Bailey, to be the Chief Field Naturalist for the Biological Survey. Bailey was renowned for his field skills, and his collections of mammals played an important role in Merriam’s research. Following Merriman’s retirement from the Bureau in 1929, he studied the ethnography of Californian Native Americans. He died in Washington, DC, in 1942.

C. Hart Merriam is justifiably regarded as the father of mammalogy. He was a founding member of the American Society of Mammalogists and served as its first president (1919); he was elected to Honorary Membership in 1930, the highest honor the Society bestows. He amassed over 600 scientific publications, which helped shape the science of mammalogy, especially by improving methods of collection and research. He described 71 new species and 2 genera, and began the North American Fauna monographs. He developed the concept of "life zones" to classify the biomes of North America. His accomplishments were widely recognized. Merriam was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1902, and in 1931 received the Roosevelt Medal for distinguished work in biology from Interior Secretary James R. Garfield. It is fitting that the American Society of Mammalogists’ award for outstanding and sustained research is named in honor of C. Hart Merriam.

  • Layne, J. N., and R. S. Hoffmann. 1994. Presidents. Pages 22–70 in E. C. Birney, and J. R. Choate, editors. Seventy-five years of Mammalogy (1919–1994). Special Publication No. 11, The American Society of Mammalogists.
  • Osgood, W. H. 1943. Clinton Hart Merriam—1855–1942.  Journal of Mammalogy 24:421–436.
  • Osgood, W. H. 1944. Biographical memoir of Clinton Hart Merriam, 1855–1942. Biographical Memoirs, National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 24:1–57.
  • Schmidly, D. J. 2016. Vernon Bailey (1864–1942): chief field naturalist of the Biological Survey. Pages 25–53 in Schmidly, D. J., W. E. Tydeman, and A. L. Gardner, editors. United States Biological Survey: a compendium of its history, personalities, impacts and conflicts. Special Publications Museum of Texas Tech University No. 64, Lubbock, Texas.
  • Sterling, K. B. 2016. C. Hart Merriam: pioneering mammalogists. Pages 15–24 in Schmidly, D. J., W. E. Tydeman, and A. L. Gardner, editors. United States Biological Survey: a compendium of its history, personalities, impacts and conflicts. Special Publications Museum of Texas Tech University No. 64, Lubbock, Texas.

The American Society of Mammalogists is now accepting nominations for the C. Hart Merriam Award. The C. Hart Merriam Award is given to eminent scholars in recognition of outstanding research in mammalogy over a period of at least 10 years. C. Hart Merriam was the first chief of the Division of Economic Ornithology and Mammalogy of the United States Department of Agriculture, and a founding member of the American Ornithologists’ Union, the National Geographic Society, and the American Society of Mammalogists. Among other contributions, he developed the concept of “life zones” to classify biomes found in North America. Nominations for the Merriam Award will be considered without regard to national citizenship or activity in the ASM.

Nominations should include a statement regarding adherence to the ASM Code of Professional Conduct. For example:

As a part of preparing this nomination, I have read and understood the American Society of Mammalogists' Code of Professional Conduct (here). To the best of my knowledge, the individual I am nominating exemplifies the high caliber of professional conduct that the ASM expects and promotes as required to be eligible for this award, as well as to retain this recognition should they be the award recipient.

Persons interested in nominating someone for the Merriam Award should send a packet containing a letter of nomination, a copy of the nominee’s CV, and 3-5 letters of nomination (all incorporated into a single PDF) via email to Terry Bowyer (bowyterr@isu.edu) by 1 March.

C. HART MERRIAM AWARD for outstanding research contributions to the science of mammalogy

1970-1979

  • 1976—James N. Layne, Archbold Biological Station, University of Florida, and Cornell University
  • 1977—J. Knox Jones, Jr., Texas Tech University and University of Kansas
  • 1978—James S. Findley, University of New Mexico
  • 1979—Terry A. Vaughan, Northern Arizona University and Colorado State University

1980-1989

  • 1980—Robert J. Baker, Texas Tech University
  • 1981—John F. Eisenberg, University of Florida, National Zoological Park, University of Maryland, and University of British Columbia
  • 1983—James L. Patton, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley
  • 1985—Michael H. Smith, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory and University of Georgia
  • 1986—William Z. Lidicker, Jr., Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley
  • 1987—Hugh H. Genoways, University of Nebraska State Museum, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, and Texas Tech University
  • 1988—Jerry R. Choate, Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University
  • 1989—James H. Brown, University of New Mexico, University Arizona, University of Utah, and UCLA

1990-1999

  • 1991—Timothy H. Clutton-Brock, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England
  • 1992—Guy G. Musser, Department of Mammalogy, American Museum of Natural History
  • 1993—Charles J. Krebs, University of British Columbia
  • 1994—Gail R. Michener, University of Lethbridge
  • 1995—M. Brock Fenton, York University
  • 1996—Katherine Ralls, National Zoological Park
  • 1997—Kenneth B. Armitage, University of Kansas
  • 1998—Thomas H. Kunz, Boston University
  • 1999—Carleton J. Phillips, Texas Tech University, Illinois State University, and Hofstra University

2000-2009

  • 2000—Michael A. Mares, Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, University of Oklahoma, and University of Pittsburgh
  • 2001—Theodore H. Fleming, University of Miami
  • 2002—George O. Batzli, University of Illinois
  • 2003—R. Terry Bowyer, University of Alaska, Fairbanks
  • 2004—O. J. Reichman, National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • 2005—Kay E. Holekamp, Michigan State University
  • 2006—David Macdonald, Oxford University
  • 2007—Robert S. Hoffmann, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution and University of Kansas
  • 2008—Christopher Dickman, University of Sydney
  • 2009—Richard Ostfeld, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2010-2019

2020+