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Remembering trailblazing ornithologist Russell Greenberg

Russell Greenberg, photographed in the Galápagos. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Russell Greenberg, photographed in the Galápagos. Photo courtesy Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

The list of ways ornithologist Russell Greenberg made the world better for birds is long indeed: He co-wrote a 1989 paper that spurred Congress to establish the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center at the National Zoo in Washington. Then, while serving as the center’s director, he helped launch International Migratory Bird Day.

He was the first to recognize the benefits of shade-grown coffee and developed science-based criteria that led to the Smithsonian’s Bird Friendly Coffee certification program. He studied Rusty Blackbird and led a group of ornithologists to try to reverse its decline. He also researched Coastal Plain Swamp Sparrow, a subspecies found in tidal marshes of the mid-Atlantic states. And he recently discovered that birds’ bills help regulate their body temperature.

In recognition of these and other accomplishments in a lifetime of achievement in science and conservation, the American Ornithologists’ Union in September awarded him its prestigious Elliott Coues Award. He died of pancreatic cancer at age 60 the following month, far too soon.

More about Russ Greenberg

Obituary in the Washington Post

On his 60th birthday in September, his colleagues hosted the Greenberg Innovation Sessions

Remembrance by Steve Monfort, director of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute


Remembrance by Irene Liu, one of Greenberg’s students

Originally Published

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