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Jim Belthoff honored with prestigious award by Raptor Research Foundation

Jim Belthoff conducting research on Barn Owls, Canyon County, John Kelly photo.

Jim Belthoff, a professor of biological sciences and interim director of the Raptor Research Center at Boise State, recently was honored with the 2020 Fran and Frederick Hamerstrom Award. This prestigious non-monetary award, granted by the Raptor Research Foundation, is among the highest scientific distinctions awarded by the foundation, and recognizes an individual who has contributed significantly to the understanding of raptor ecology and natural history.

“Everyone in our field knows that the Hamerstroms were legends for their passion for wildlife ecology, pay-it-forward mentality and contributions to raptor research,” said Belthoff. “To be mentioned in the same sentence as the Hamerstroms is truly an honor. Moreover, to be recognized by my peers with this award, and to be included among the previous outstanding honorees, is something that I never could have imagined.”

In his current position as interim director of the Raptor Research Center, Belthoff leads the university’s involvement with multiple projects and programs essential to the research and conservation of raptor species. Such projects include the Multi-Year Raptor Inventory and Survey Project being conducted within the National Conservation Area and Orchard Combat Training Center in Idaho, as well as projects focused on contaminant exposure in raptors and illegal shooting of birds of prey.

Jim Belthoff and REU students conducting research on Burrowing Owls, Orchard Training Area and Snake River Birds Of Prey Conservation Area, south of Boise, John Kelly photo.

He has been awarded more than $3.4 million in research grants, and authored/co-authored nearly 70 peer-reviewed scholarly publications.

Since joining the Boise State faculty in 1993 as an assistant professor, Belthoff’s dedication to education and raptor research has been shared with hundreds of students, and in return, he says he has learned volumes from them.

“It has always been a privilege to be associated with the education of upcoming generations of raptor researchers. Our programs in raptor biology at Boise State, both at the graduate and undergraduate levels, attract outstanding students from across the country,” said Belthoff. “If there is anything that has become apparent after these years, it is that, quite frankly, I learn as much from each of them as they might from me. It is continuously amazing to see the accomplishments of all of our raptor biology students once they leave Boise State, as many have gone on to be science and government leaders in their own right.”

Belthoff also directs the National Science Foundation funded ten-week Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) in raptor research, providing undergraduate students with the hands-on experiences that empower their curiosity and passion for research.

Jim Belthoff holds Barn Owl, Canyon County, John Kelly photo.

Belthoff has worked with dozens of species, such as burrowing and barn owls. However, his prompt reply when asked about his favorite raptor is “the screech-owl”.

“To me they are the quintessential owl – strictly nocturnal, large yellow eyes, and ear tufts. Their vocalizations, which are not screeches, are composed of soft hoots repeated in accelerating and descending fashion like a bouncing ball. I love hearing them at night, and they remind me of warm spring evenings,” said Belthoff. “Finally, they are a favorite of mine because we have been able to know so much about them through our research, including some fairly novel research related to endogenous factors influencing dispersal movements in owls.”

Belthoff is a fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union and a member of multiple other professional societies, including but not limited to the Cooper Ornithological Society, the Association of Field Ornithologists and the Raptor Research Foundation. He is also a former chair of the Department of Biological Sciences. Prior to his tenure at Boise State, Belthoff served as a research assistant with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in South Carolina, in addition to being a senior biologist at 3D/Environmental Services, Inc.

Belthoff earned his doctoral degree in zoology in 1992 from Clemson University, and his masters in biology in 1987 from Eastern Kentucky University. Belthoff began his education pursuing and attaining his bachelors in wildlife biology in 1982 from Colorado State University.

To learn more about the Fran and Frederick Hamerstrom Award, visit: