William "Bill" Bowerman, a professor of wildlife ecology and environmental toxicology at the University of Maryland, College Park, is the inaugural recipient of the Phi Kappa Phi Mary Todd Sabbatical Award.
Named for former Society Executive Director Mary Todd, the $50,000 award supports a sabbatical year or similar reassignment of duties for research or other scholarly projects.
Bowerman, who chairs his university’s Department of Environmental Science and Technology, will use the award to support ongoing research into how avian influenza might be spread among sea eagles in various parts of the world.
The research is important because the illness has had a global impact on both domestic and wild birds. Understanding how avian flu can spread between wild and domestic birds is a significant concern for the economy, but also in the management of endangered species, Bowerman told Phi Kappa Phi in applying for the award.
Bowerman, who was initiated into Phi Kappa Phi at Clemson University in 2009, is a Lifetime Member who previously served as president of his local chapter. After earning degrees in biology from Western Michigan University and Northern Michigan University, Bowerman graduated from Michigan State University with a doctorate in fisheries and wildlife – environmental toxicology in 1993.
Before joining the UMD faculty in 2011, Bowerman had teaching and research positions at Michigan State University, Lake Superior State University, and Clemson University. Bowerman has published extensively on the health of eagle populations and related subjects. He’s received numerous awards for his work, including recognition as Bald Eagle Person of the Year by the Eagle Nature Foundation.
An Eagle Scout, Bowerman has remained active in the Boy Scouts of America.
Bowerman anticipates that the research supported by the Mary Todd Sabbatical Award will take him to several continents. Bald eagles became famous as a barometer of environmental health in Silent Spring, Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking 1962 bestseller that documented how pesticides were weakening eagle populations and causing other harmful impacts. In a similar way, Bowerman noted, insights into the effects of avian flu and other threats to sea eagles can broaden public understanding of new challenges.
“I had a big dream for my sabbatical,” Bowerman said. “This award will make it a reality.”