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Expert in mythological ornithology to join KU as new foundation professor

Friday, April 1, 2016

A driven and elite mythological bird species has taken over the Mid-west and has expanded its migration pattern to far corners of the globe. The extreme diversity within the species has kept ornithologists busy, struggling to determine patterns among the group. Now, a leading researcher whose work illuminates distinguishing characteristics of these birds will join the University of Kansas as a Foundation Distinguished Professor.  

Baby Jay will join KU faculty in the fall as a professor of ecology & evolutionary biology. Jay brings 44 years of world-class ornithology experience, specifically expertise with the Jayhawk species, to the University.

“We’re excited to welcome Dr. Baby Jay to the College,” said Carl Lejuez, dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. “Baby’s world-class research and sparkling personality are key characteristics of an outstanding ambassador for KU.”

Since hatching in 1971, Jay has completed extensive research on the Jayhawk and has been cited in a number of published works.  A combination of the blue jay and the sparrow hawk, the Jayhawk species is a mythical bird with a fascinating history. Research indicates the term was likely coined around 1848 and has its roots in the historic struggles of the Kansas settlers who were committed to becoming a Free State. 

Jay’s research sheds a new light on the Jayhawk and its most distinguishing characteristics, discovering patterns of a passion for learning, dedication and drive. Additionally, while Jayhawks make their nests in various climates across the globe, they nearly always return for a period to the limestone hills in the central United States. 

KU’s Foundation Distinguished Professor initiative is a unique partnership between the university and the state of Kansas to attract eminent faculty members to support one of the university’s four strategic initiative themes.  In her role as one of 12 Foundation Professors, Baby Jay will play a leadership role in advancing KU’s strategic initiative themes.