john w fitzpatrick

Dr. John Fitzpatrick (Fitz) awarded James Madison Medal by Princeton University

February 24, 2024

Every year for the last 50 years, Princeton University has awarded the James Madison Medal to a distinguished alum of their Graduate School. Dr. John Fitzpatrick (Fitz), Archbold Board Member and Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CLO) Emeritus Director, was the recipient of the award on February 24, 2024. Watch him accept and deliver a short talk here. Fitz says, "This is the first time an awardee has been in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Exactly 50 years ago, I started as a graduate student at Princeton, so I feel very honored." Known today as North America’s most prominent ornithologist, a Princeton publication describes his early fascination with birds growing up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He participated in his first Christmas Bird Count when he was just 6-years old. Two years later, Fitz began learning birdsongs from a CLO vinyl record. Little did he know, he would one day direct that esteemed institution for 26 years, including overseeing the launch of eBird, one of the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science projects. During Fitz’s expeditions to Peru for his Ph.D. at Princeton, his team discovered five birds new to science. Friend and colleague Dr. Scott Robinson describes his graduate study of 400+ species of elusive tyrant flycatchers in Central and South America as unprecedented. Fitz says, "It was genuine fundamental human curiosity about the evolutionary biology of this amazingly cool, very large radiation of birds." His curiosity led him to the Field Museum of Chicago, Archbold, as our Executive Director (1988-1995), and the CLO. Throughout his career, Fitz kept his feet in the Archbold sandy scrub and his eyes on his beloved Florida Scrub-Jay. He first visited Archbold in 1972 as a Harvard University undergraduate intern, returning almost yearly to map scrub-jay territories. Congratulations, Fitz, on this well-deserved honor!