By Meredith Oglesby
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – James (Jim) Hines changed the understanding of wildlife ecology through his 40-year career, and on April 28 he was awarded the Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Florida.
The honorary degree is the one of the greatest recognitions the university can bestow, second only to the earned doctorate. At the spring doctoral recognition ceremony, Hines was recognized for his work developing software and methods for understanding animal population ecology and biometrics.
Hines received a Bachelor of Science in mathematics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1979 and has worked as a federal employee since. He is currently a computer scientist at the U.S. Geological Survey Eastern Ecological Science Center, formerly known as the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. His work focuses on population modeling, survival and occupancy estimation, statistical computing, applied statistics and computational ecology.
“He has always been an integral part of a team of scientists focused on research in animal ecology and wildlife management,” said James Nichols, scientist emeritus at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s U.S. Geological Survey. “He has an uncanny ability of ‘knowing’ exactly what information is encoded in data, developing models to estimate parameters that the rest of us thought impossible to access.”
Hines’ research is split between answering specific research questions and developing and describing statistical inference methods. The models and programs developed by Hines are now widely used and cited by ecologists around the world. According to Google Scholar, Hines has been cited more than 34,000 times.
“In academia, having your work cited so many times is an incredible feat,” said Elaine Turner, dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “What’s more incredible is the impact Jim has had on wildlife ecology as a whole and the people he has mentored throughout his career. We are thrilled Jim continues to be so engaged with our wildlife ecology and conservation department and is being recognized for his outstanding efforts with the Honorary Doctor of Science degree.”
Hines developed and maintains a website that provides users with results of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Breeding Bird Survey. This interactive visual website provides resources for wildlife managers, researchers and enthusiasts interested in learning about more than 650 bird species. The site also includes freely accessible ecological analysis software written or maintained by Hines.
He has also shared his knowledge and skills with future wildlife ecology professionals as he has worked with more than 100 graduate students from all over the world to develop research projects. Hines has served on graduate committees for students, including those at the University of Florida.
“It is interesting that Hines has helped so many graduate students with the analyses that allow them to obtain Ph.D. degrees, without ever having done this himself,” said Nichols. “Hines has helped so many other scientists in their research.”
Hines’ impact can be seen through the students he’s mentored, methods for ecological studies he has introduced, and the science and knowledge he has generated to improve the field of wildlife ecology and conservation.
“Quite simply, Jim is superb — one of the brightest minds I have ever encountered, one of the kindest and most helpful colleagues I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, and one of the most productive and impactful people I’ve met in nearly 40 years of ‘doing science,’” Evan Cooch, associate professor of natural resources and the environment at Cornell University, wrote in a letter.
The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. The college has received more total (national and regional combined) USDA teaching awards than any other institution.