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Ian Owens tapped to lead Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Ian Owens
Dr. Ian Owens will become the Cornell Lab’s next executive director in July 2021. Photo courtesy Ian Owens

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology announced today that it has chosen its next executive director.

Ian Owens, a distinguished evolutionary biologist and museum director, will take the helm of the 106-year-old institution in July 2021.

Owens will take over from John Fitzpatrick, the Lab’s executive director since 1995, who announced his retirement last year. 

In Fitzpatrick’s 25-plus years, he guided the organization from having a staff of a few dozen to its current size of 250 staff and $35 million annual operating budget. He will remain on staff for a time at the Lab and will continue to be a professor at Cornell University. 

In addition to leading the Lab, Owens will also hold an appointment as professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

Originally from Yorkshire, England, Owens has 25 years of experience serving as a professor and departmental chair at Imperial College London, and as a director at both the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Natural History Museum of London.

“As the next director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ian Owens will embrace what the Lab stands for and move us forward through the 21st century, to continue the incredible successes we have made in science and outreach, and to inform conservation as no other organization in the world can,” said Linda Macaulay, the chair of the Cornell Lab’s administrative board and co-chair of the search committee.

She stressed the combination of talents and experience that made Owens the Lab’s top choice, citing his influential academic career, deep knowledge of administration and finances, thoughtful leadership style, and lifelong love of birds.

“To have the chance to work at the Lab, it’s almost irresistible,” Owens said. “This is a group of smart, highly creative people dedicated to using birds as a way to open up nature for a massive community. It’s the most exciting thing I could ever do with my life.”

Learn more about this news on the Cornell Lab’s website.

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