Gill Memorial Medal to David George Allan

Posted 28 June 2021 by under Announcements & Notices • Journal: Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology
Gill Memorial Medal to David George Allan

David Allan, an accomplished academic ornithologist and an avid birdwatcher has won the Gill Memorial Medal. As BirdLife's most prestigious award it is given for outstanding lifetime contributions to ornithology in southern Africa. Although Allan is an accomplished academic ornithologist as well as an experienced birdwatcher, he has always favoured application over theory and active and effective conservation over the simple generation and analysis of data. 

The inaugural award was presented to Jack Winterbottom in 1960, and the most recent recipient was Claire Spottiswoode (2019). The list of recipients includes a very renowned group of southern Africa’s distinguished ornithologists, including Philip Clancey, Roy Siegfried, Richard Brooke, Warwick Tarboton, Richard Dean, John Cooper and Adrian Craig.

For over 40 years Allan has brought this unique blend of pragmatism, sincerity and deep knowledge to bring a better understanding of the region's birds while highlighting the threats that they face. The scale of his contribution to date may come as a surprise to some, simply because he has tended to operate outside of the limelight, quietly and methodically identifying and addressing priority issues and selflessly helping others to do the same. 

He is one of only a handful of names that lace the contemporary annals of local ornithology, likely to come up as an author or instigator in any assessment of work done over the last three to four decades, regardless of the taxon or aspect of avian biology under review. While being the Curator of Ornithology at the Durban Natural Science Museum he has also managed to focus on a variety of research interests, including a long-term study of the birdlife of Durban Bay. 

He has led over 100 pelagic seabird daytrips off the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. He has also expanded his involvement in bird impact studies, injecting much-needed knowledge, experience, and high ethical standards into this contentious field. This includes important work done on all phases of the Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme.

Allen has been an author of several books and has published 400 articles on southern African birds. He has written 200 scientific papers of which about 70 are in peer-reviewed journals. Species accounts for bird handbooks have been a hallmark of his publication interests, including for the two-volume The Atlas of Southern African Birds, Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, and the Handbook of the Birds of the World.

David Allan has always had the enthusiasm, the time and the humility required to mentor younger ornithologists, speak to, chair or administer bird clubs (including many within the BirdLife South Africa stable), deliver courses in bird identification, lead outings and otherwise encourage and nurture a passion for birds in the general public. He is a long-time member of BirdLife South Africa, and a thoroughly deserving recipient of the Gill Memorial Medal.

Read the Gill Memorial Media citation on Allan written by Andrew Jenkins at no cost until the end of July in the latest edition of Ostrich Journal of African Ornithology here

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