Harold F. Greeney
Fellow: Awarded 2015
Field of Study: Organismic Biology & Ecology
Competition: US & Canada
It came as no surprise to anyone who knew him that, after graduating from Wake Forest University, Harold hopped a plane to Ecuador and disappeared for a year into the jungle. For a full year he worked as a jungle guide at a remote tourist lodge and used his spare time to assist Phil DeVries (1996 Guggenheim Fellow) with studies of tropical butterflies. In 1994 he joined the graduate program in entomology at the University of Arizona, spending most of the next five years exploring tropical nature in Ecuador, concentrating his studies on the aquatic insects associated with bromeliads and other container habitats in the Amazon. In 1999, armed with a Masters in entomology, binoculars, a butterfly net, and a notebook, Harold sold all of his worldly possessions and purchased a small piece of property in the cloud forests of eastern Ecuador. Subsisting on a modest garden, trout caught in the nearby river, and the chickens that came with the purchase, Harold lived in a semi-waterproof house with no electricity or running water and immersed himself in tropical biology. This bold move was the first step in pursuing his dream of creating a biological research station. A decade and a half later, as founder, owner, and director of research of the Yanayacu Biological Station and Center for Creative Studies, he had never once wavered in his quest, sharing his passion for art, creative writing, and science with numerous national and foreign students along the way. During this time he fell in love with the study of bird nests and the prolific publishing of his findings in scientific journals was recognized by the ornithological community through the prestigious Pamela & Alexander F. Skutch Award in 2005. His interest in insects, however, was undiminished and much of his time was also dedicated to publishing studies on caterpillars as part of a multi-national collaborative project funded by the National Science Foundation. In 2008, already with more than 100 peer-reviewed papers under his belt, Harold completed a PhD in ornithology through the University of Wroclaw. As an accomplished scientist and passionate advocate of natural history research, Harold has been invited to speak on topics ranging from tropical diversity and caterpillar behavior to avian nesting biology, at universities and conferences around the world.
Currently, with almost 250 published research articles, Harold is finishing his first book, a scholarly work covering the natural history of tropical antpittas and gnateaters. During his fellowship Harold will be tackling the monumental task of writing the first ever field guide to the nest and eggs of Ecuador’s more than 1400 species of birds. In fact, this work will be the first of its kind for any country in tropical America, a fact which aptly mirrors publication of The Butterflies of Costa Rica (Princeton Univ. Press 1987), the first guide to butterflies of any Neotropical country; a book written by Guggenheim Fellow Phil DeVries. Harold will be writing and illustrating his field guide while living in Tucson with his wife and two children and studying migratory bird use of the Colorado River drainage in his new position as a researcher at the University of Arizona.