American Ornithologists’ Union plots new course in Chicago

8/15/2013 | 0

A Great Auk, symbol of the American Ornithologists' Union, and a California Condor, Symbol of the Cooper Ornithological Society, in front of the Field Museum in Chicago, site of the August 2013 AOU-COS meeting.

A Great Auk, symbol of the American Ornithologists’ Union, and a California Condor, Symbol of the Cooper Ornithological Society, in front of the Field Museum in Chicago, site of the August 2013 AOU-COS meeting.

This is a busy time of year for anyone who loves birds and birding. The Tucson Bird & Wildlife Festival is under way in Arizona, the Henderson Hummingbird Hurrah will be this weekend, and Birdfair kicks off tomorrow in Rutland, England. Birdfair does indeed take place across the Big Pond, in the Old World, but its heart, at least for this year, is decidedly in the New World. This year’s event is raising funds to support efforts to protect birds that breed in the prairies and other grasslands of North America.

I’d be delighted to attend any of these events, as I’m sure you would too, since the locations are wonderful, the organizers are top-notch, and the birds are fascinating, but this week my appointment calendar is full up. I’m in Chicago, another wonderful location, where I’m attending the annual meeting of the American Ornithologists’ Union, another of my favorite annual events. Scientific sessions got underway yesterday and will continue until Saturday.

This year, the AOU is holding its meeting jointly with the Cooper Ornithological Society. (You can see the organizations’ symbol birds — a Great Auk and a California Condor — in the artwork above. They’re swimming and soaring near Chicago’s wonderful Field Museum, the meeting’s host.) That the two groups are convening together is significant, coming as it does after more than a year of intense brainstorming and discussion about the future of all of North America’s ornithological communities and a daring proposal to create a single Society for Ornithology.

According to AOU president Susan Haig, task forces that grew out of those discussions will soon produce significant, and noticeable, changes (but no SFO). Addressing conferees this morning, she announced that the AOU and COS have agreed to work together to find efficiencies, that the two societies will meet jointly in the future, that they are developing a new website that will provide an online home for both groups, and that they are forming a new central publications office, which will publish the organizations’ respected scholarly journals, The Auk and The Condor.

Even more exciting, the mission of each journal is being redefined. The Auk, the AOU’s century-old flagship, will concentrate on research and scholarship that advances “fundamental scientific knowledge of bird species and broad biological concepts,” while The Condor will become more conservation-minded, focusing on the “application of scientific theory and methods to the conservation, management, and ecology of birds.”

The journals will live primarily online, Haig said, but printed issues will continue to be published quarterly and delivered to members willing to pay a little extra for them. Haig told conference attendees that starting in January 2014, articles in both journals will be posted online weekly. The Auk will be edited by Mark Hauber of Hunter College. Philip Stouffer of Louisiana State University will edit The Condor. — Chuck Hagner, Editor