Published: May 23, 2018 By

The American Ornithological Society has honored Assistant Professor Scott A. Taylor with the 2018 Ned K. Johnson Young Investigator Award. 

Taylor, a member of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the University of Colorado Boulder College of Arts & Sciences, said it is “an honor” to be recognized for his work. 


Scott Taylor with a chestnut-sided warbler. Image courtesy of Scott Taylor.

The award is given to an early career ornithologist who “who shows distinct promise for future leadership in the profession.” Ornithology is the study of birds, and Taylor’s research focuses on hybrid zones. 

Hybrid zones occur where species’ ranges overlap and are characterized by the “interbreeding of individuals from two or more populations, that possess different heritable characteristics,” Taylor noted. 

Animal hybrids are common in nature, though we often think of captive hybrids like mules or ligers when we think of hybridization.

Taylor uses avian hybrid zones to study changes in species distributions in response to climate change, to study how urbanization changes species interactions, and to uncover the genetic basis of traits relevant to species barriers (e.g., metabolism and plumage). He also incorporates citizen science into his work, taking advantage of large and growing databases like eBird.

Taylor’s research focuses on a number of different avian hybrid zones, including those between different chickadee, warbler and booby species. He also studies high-elevation rosy finches that found throughout the mountain west. 

Taylor accepted the award in April at the American Ornithological Society’s annual meeting in Tucson, Arizona, where he gave a plenary talk titled “A bird’s eye view of the origin and maintenance of biodiversity.”

Taylor earned his PhD in 2011 from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where he studied the ecology and evolution of South American seabirds, including the charismatic blue-footed booby, the Peruvian booby, and the Peruvian pelican. 

He joined the CU Boulder faculty in 2016.