Marsh Award for International Ornithology

This Award is run in partnership with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and recognises an individual scientist whose work on the international stage has had significant influence on British ornithology, especially as reflected in the work of BTO scientists and volunteers.

Nominations are judged by an independent panel of experts who consider each application against agreed judging criteria.


Professor Lukas Jenni 2021

Professor Jenni has been at the forefront of European ornithology for all of his working life until his recent retirement. He has been head of the Swiss ringing scheme and for the last 30 years has been director of the Swiss Ornithological Institute. Among his 200 publications, he is best known as the lead author of a book, ‘Moult and Ageing of European Passerines’, that revolutionised the approach of many ringers. Last year, Professor Jenni led the publication of a second edition of this work that was completely re-written to include more species and more data. This book was accompanied by a new edition of ‘The Biology of Moult in Birds’ that brings together the results of important studies, making them more accessible for ornithologists at all levels. Professor Jenni has also supervised numerous students in his main research interests of ecology and bird migration, thus encouraging the next generation of ornithologists.

Previous Winners

Verena Keller

Verena works in the Monitoring Department at the Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sempach, Switzerland and has been instrumental in the work of the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) for 20 years and is currently Vice-Chair. She has led the work on the European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2) project for the last 10 yearsShe is Chair of the Atlas Steering Committee and has done a fantastic job steering the project to planned publication in December 2020. Verena has secured much of the financial investment needed for the project. Verena also has key interest in waterbird monitoring and she is the Swiss delegate for Wetlands International. She undertook her postdoc at Aberdeen University where she studied grey geese, mainly Pink-footed Geese. In her senior science role at SOI, she has continued to publish widely on waterbird monitoring in central and eastern Europe and has authored/ co-authored 90 publications. 


Watch the Awards Presentation:

Dr Petr Vorisek

Dr Petr Vorisek is based at the Czech Society of Ornithology (CSO) in Prague. Since first being appointed to the role of Pan European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) coordinator more than ten years ago, Petr has been an active and high‐profile leader. Through many connections facilitated by Petr, this scheme is now established as a shining example of European cooperation in biodiversity conservation. In PECBMS, bird population trends are collected from 27 contributing countries, and through bespoke analytical procedures that take into account national population sizes and different time series, are aggregated into Pan‐European species population trends and Pan‐European bird indicators used by the European Commission.

Although this has been a team effort, much of its success is owed to Petr’s leadership. This has encompassed frequent meetings with the funders, running training courses all over Europe, organising annual workshops, and the production of the required deliverables – the high-profile European bird indicators and species trends published annually.

Petr has proved particularly adept in working with NGOs and people in eastern Europe where his outgoing personality and expertise in Russian as well as other languages has proved invaluable, as well as in the west. Petr has also been responsible for communicating the value of these data in other contexts, to the EBCC Board on which he sits as Observer, governments, conservationists and academics on a wide range of topics. He has fought to obtain funds for a PECBMS Research Officer, to undertake bespoke research relevant to conservation policies in Europe.

In recent years, Petr has also taken on the mammoth task of coordinating the fieldwork for the EBCC’s second European Breeding Bird Atlas, helping to develop the methodologies, running training courses and atlasing expeditions throughout countries in eastern and southern Europe, and working closely with colleagues in Switzerland and Barcelona on other aspects of this huge project.

David Stroud

David Stroud has worked for the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and its predecessors for over 30 years. He is the UK’s National Focal Point for the Ramsar Convention’s Scientific and Technical Review Panel and was, until recently, Chair of the Technical Committee of the African-Eurasian Waterbirds Agreement. He has also actively contributed to the work of Wetlands International, the EU Birds Directive’s Committees and processes as well as the International Wader Study Group, and has been heavily involved in providing advice related to birds to national and international processes in relation to the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza.

David has co-ordinated three national reviews of the UK network of Special Protection Areas classified under the EU Birds Directive and actively contributed to four reviews of Birds of Conservation Concern. He ensures that BTO monitoring data is used in these international reviews, many of which help to safeguard our internationally important wetlands and other habitats. David has previously been Chairman of the UK Joint Working Party on Special Protection Areas and Ramsar Sites, and has Chaired the UK Rare Breeding Birds Panel. His contribution on the international scene, representing the UK, has been outstanding and often goes unrecognised.

Professor Theunis Piersma

Theunis Piersma is Professor of Global Flyway Ecology at the University of Gronigen in the Netherlands, where he has established a successful research group and acquired wide international recognition for his scientific work on migration, ecology and evolution of birds and other taxa.

Professor Piersma’s group have established the importance of phenotypic flexibility of individual bodies in influencing evolution in animal species, using a combination of non-invasive field techniques and indoor intertidal facilities. His work has also focused on the evolutionary trade-off involved in the predation and anti-predator behaviours across different taxa along the food chain and his findings have had high policy relevance as they informed on the risks of overexploitation of marine areas.

Professor Piersma is a dedicated mentor to the younger generation of scientists, supervising 50 PhD students and 20 Postdocs, and his team hosts visiting students and scientists from all over the world. He is a prolific science communicator, with 14 books in his name, and has won a number of prizes for his contributions to science. He is currently editor of Functional Ecology and Emu (an Australian journal), and on the editorial board of Current Ornithology, Journal of Ornithology, and Avian Conservation and Ecology, further highlighting his involvement in international research.

Professor Pertti Saurola

Professor Pertti Saurola was senior researcher at the Zoological Museum of the University of Helsinki from the mid-1970s until his retirement in 2002. He was head of the Finnish Ringing Scheme for many years and also chaired the European Union of Bird Ringing for 14 years.

Pertti has studied the ecology and demography of Ural and Tawny Owls in the field since the mid-1960s and Ospreys and satellite tracking since the early-2000s. He is an extremely rigorous scientist, advocating the importance of high quality field design, field data collection, analysis and publication throughout his career. The Finnish Raptor Grid monitoring scheme which he pioneered, working with volunteer ringers across Finland, is seen as a model worldwide.

Pertti has been particularly influential in working closely with statisticians to make specialist techniques for analysing mark-recapture data accessible to field ecologists and the ringing community. He spends much time out in the field with younger researchers, sharing his expertise and passion for birds and their conservation. Pertti has an impressive scientific publication record, has written a number of books and has influenced the public through regular writing in more popular publications.

Professor Dr Franz Bairlein

Professor Dr Franz Bairlein, currently Director of the Institut fur Vogelforschung in Wilhelmshaven, is one of Europe’s foremost ornithologists. His work on population dynamics and the ecology of migrant birds and migration directly addressed two of the British Trust for Ornithology’s strategic research themes and is increasingly addressing a third, the impacts of climate change. His scientific output is impressive, having authored or edited 11 books and over 250 scientific papers, all characterised by a meticulous, elegant approach to solving fundamental problems in ornithology.

Franz has particularly championed the use of ringing as a tool for studying birds. He has served on many scientific boards and advisory committees at both national and international levels including the European Ornithologists’ Union, the International Ornithological Committee and EURING; he has previously served as President at the latter two organisations. He is a great advocate of international collaborative projects many of which encourage the participation of volunteer ringers.

Dr Manu Shiiwua

Dr Manu Shiiwua is head of the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) in Jos, Nigeria, leading the organisation in conservation work in West Africa. The institute runs an MSc programme in conservation Biology, which annually takes on between 5 and 10 West African students with the aim of building much needed conservation capacity in this part of Africa. It has been extremely successful, with many previous students now working in NGOs, Statutory Conservation Bodies, Universities and other Research Institutes.

APLORI hosts a number of researchers from around the world working in ecology, identifying migration patterns for species of birds, and working with locals to help protect the local reserve of Amerum , where there is an array of birds species and other wildlife.

Dr Shiiwua has inexhaustible energy and enthusiasm for his work. He looks after the visitors, local students and researchers, navigating through the bureaucracy and corruption that threaten this work in Nigeria and ensuring that APLORI remains a potent force for conservation in West Africa.

Dr Lars Svensson

Dr Lars Svensson has made an immeasurable contribution to bird ringing through his book: Identification Guide to European Passerines. The first edition, published in 1970, was just 152 pages and covered 177 species but had already moved on from the earlier BTO and other guides published in the 1960s. The current (4th) edition published in 1992 covers 229 species and has 368 pages. The next edition will shortly be in development.

The books are based on Lars’ extensive work on museum skins (over 35,000 examined) as well as the literature and contributions from many ringers. These books are the passerine-ringers’ ‘Bibles’, without which our knowledge of different ages and sexes of species would be much poorer.