Corine Vriesendorp: Parker-Gentry Award is an award that honors two incredible biologists, Ted Parker, and Al Gentry. Ted Parker was an expert on birds, Al Gentry was an expert on plants. They were part of a team of four that were experts in their field. These four people could be dropped into the middle of nowhere and very quickly give you an assessment of why that place is special.
John Bates: Ted Parker was an absolutely unique individual. He had a lifelong passion for birds.
Doug Stotz: He was unbelievable with birds and a big part of that was focus. It was almost all that he thought about.
Tom Schulenberg: Even as an undergraduate at University of Arizona, Ted began to experiment with audio recording of birds, way ahead of almost everyone else. [1:00]
Voice of Ted Parker: The clear, whistled song of the undulated tinamou is a characteristic early morning sound of river edge or low lying forest. [Undulated tinamou call]
John Bates: He showed people that working in the field and assembling good data sets about what was in a given area in the Neotropics, which is some of the richest avifaunas on the planet, was actually possible. But also to be able to do it by ear, because a lot of times in tropical forest, you're not going to see the individual species, but you will definitely hear them.
Doug Stotz: Basically, Ted heard a bird once and he remembered it forever.
Debra Moskovits: He was just extraordinarily generous with everyone, and he motivated them to go after their own passions, and then to use their passion to do something for conservation.
Nigel Pitman: Gentry was one of the first members of the rapid inventory team at Conservation International. [2:00] He had a long list of places that he still hadn't gotten to, places that he thought, “This place is going to be really special. It needs to be protected.”
Michael Dillon: That was what Al was about. That's how you make discoveries. You can't just trudge around the footsteps of other people–you got to make your own footsteps.
Nigel Pitman: It was just incredible the amount of work that he did and the variety of work that he did. He wrote the best field guide to Amazonian plants. He floated the most hypotheses. He collected the most data.
Michael Dillon: Al was very meticulous about making sure that the taxonomy in his studies, his inventories, was dead-on.
Nigel Pitman: It was this kind of detail in the rapid inventory reports that made Gentry's contribution such an inspiration to people. It wasn't just a list of plant species. It was full of this sense of wonder and discovery and the importance of the places that they were visiting.
Michael Dillon: He was a mentor to many, many, many people. And he did that over and over again and I say, he did it all over the world. [3:00] And he certainly did it a lot in Latin America.
Nigel Pitman: Gentry's impact is huge, and it's lasting. I'm writing a paper right now that tests a hypothesis that Gentry published in 1990. People are still using his papers, still using the specimens that he brought back from the field, still using the photographs that he took in the field, and the ideas that he floated about tropical plant communities.
Nigel Pitman: For biologists of my generation, the plane crash that killed Ted and Al was one of those events that really marks you. We remember where we were when it happened.
Michael Dillon: You know, they lost two of the greatest neotropical scientists on that day. It was really, really an enormous blow. [4:00]
Corine Vriesendorp: These people were incredible. This is a legacy that we as a museum want to honor forever.
Debra Moskovits: The first award was given out in 1996, and there has been an award every single year since then when we can all remember Ted and Al.
Corine Vriesendorp: And it is given every year to folks who are doing something really important to conserve biological diversity, natural heritage--but the most important thing is that they are doing work on the ground, and that it could be a model for other people. This award came together at the Field Museum because of the generosity of an anonymous donor. And I think as a museum that thinks about the past, is focused on the present, and wants to change the future, this is exactly the award we want to be giving out. [5:00] And the legacies of Ted and Al are incredible, and to be able to celebrate that every year and at the same time focus on a new individual who's doing something amazing, is really powerful.
Video produced by Steve Delahoyde of Delahoyde Projects with Lex Winter and Ellen Woodward of the Field Museum.
Thank you to John Bates, Michael Dillon, Debra Moskovits, Nigel Pitman, Tom Schulenberg, Doug Stotz, and Corine Vriesendorp.
Thank you to the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for permission to use Ted Parker’s audio recordings of birds.
All photos and footage © Field Museum with the following exceptions:
1. Ted Parker recording, 1988 along Rio Heath on the Peru-Bolivia border. Ken Rosenberg.
2. Jaó - Crypturellus undulatus (Undulated Tinamou). Retrieved from https://www. flickr.com/photos/luizmrocha/45515964662/in/photolist-2cm6dxq-6Lfhwo-6Lb8Nt-6Lb8Ge-6LfhFb-6LfhJQ-2i4m7ky-6Lfhnf-5THscp-bvs824/. Luiz Carlos Rocha.
3. Birds of Peru cover and illustration plates. Princeton Nature.
4. Ted Parker recording. Haroldo Castro/Viajologia.com.
5. Ted Parker recording at Explorer’s Inn in southeastern Peru in January 1978. Paul Donahue.
6. James Aronson and Al Gentry. Michael Dillon.
7. Al Gentry with stitches. Michael Dillon.
8. A Field Guide to Woody Plants of Northwest South America (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru) cover. University of Chicago Press.
9. Al Gentry with team in Cerro Colán, Peru. Michael Dillon.
10. Al Gentry and team with capparis spinosa plant. Michael Dillon.
11. Al Gentry with Michael Dillon and team in Cerro Colán, Peru. Michael Dillon.
12. Al Gentry with team at rest stop in La Peca, Peru. Michael Dillon.
13. “Theodore Parker, Alwyn Gentry, Biologists, Die in Airplane Crash” by Ronald Sullivan. Printed in the New York Times, August 6, 1993.
14. Ted Parker and Al Gentry in helicopter. Kim Awbrey.
15. David Vaughan, 2016 awardee. Courtesy of David Vaughan.