ACES bird migration expert recognized with Biota Award

A man wearing glasses smiles at the viewer. In the background, bluffs and an ocean are visible.
Benjamin Van Doren

Today, the Walder Foundation of Chicago announced the recipients of its 2024 Biota Awards, recognizing early-career researchers working to understand, protect, and restore the unique and diverse ecosystems in Chicago and around the world. One of the five recipients is Benjamin Van Doren, who joined the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in December 2023.

“It is a huge honor to receive this award, which will support research to make cities safer for wildlife while engaging communities across Chicagoland,” said Van Doren, an assistant professor in NRES, which is part of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) at Illinois. 

Van Doren’s research group studies migratory animals, focusing on the anthropogenic threats they face during migration and the ways in which they respond. Major themes of Van Doren’s work include the impacts of light pollution on bird migration, migratory animals’ adaptation to environmental change, and tracking and predicting major migration patterns.

Van Doren was selected for the Biota Award, which includes a $300,000 prize over three years, for a project titled, “Wings over the Windy City: Science, outreach, and action to protect Chicago’s migratory birds.” 

The project will investigate the risks migratory birds face in Chicagoland, both on the ground and in the air. Specifically, his team will show how migratory birds use aerial habitats in the city, identify the value of urban green spaces, and identify key factors driving fatal collisions between birds and buildings. He plans to create data-driven tools to engage and educate the public, as well as advocates and policymakers. Local and regional partners include the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, Audubon Great Lakes, and Openlands.

“We are excited to support these researchers in our shared goal of fostering a city with diverse ecosystems for future generations to enjoy, and in elevating the contributions of the region to tackling the global biodiversity crisis,” said Elizabeth Walder, president and executive director of the Walder Foundation.

For more information on the 2024 Biota Awards, please visit the organization’s website.

Story Source(s)