Brad Livezey, RIP 2011


I've just heard the tragic and saddening news that ornithologist Bradley Livezey died yesterday morning (Tuesday 8th February, 2011) following a car crash. It seems that his car lost traction due to snow and ice on the road surface and then collided with another vehicle. Brad was 56. I never met him, but regarded him as a very friendly and co-operative correspondent.

Brad was a leading ornithologist, based at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. After receiving a bachelor's degree at Oregon State University in 1976, he was awarded a master of science degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's wildlife ecology department in 1979. He went on to earn a master of arts degree in 1984 at the University of Kansas, and received his doctorate there in 1985. His impact on the field of avian systematics and phylogeny, and in particular on our understanding of the evolution of flightlessness (e.g., Livezey 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992), was enormous. Many of his proposals were controversial and he was certainly critical of others where he felt it appropriate. He definitely stimulated a great deal of discussion and further work, and his papers are extraordinary for the amount of data and analysis he packed in to each of his studies.


If you search this site using his name you'll find him mentioned innumerable times, since he published a huge amount on the evolution and diversity of waterfowl (e.g., Livezey 1991, 1995a, b, 1996a-c, 1997a, b) and rails (Livezey 2003), the behaviour of steamer-ducks (Livezey & Humphrey 1985a, b, 1986), the evolution of giant size in the dodo and solitaire (Livezey 1993), and on the shape of the neornithine tree as a whole (e.g., Livezey 1998, 2010) [adjacent plate showing flightless rails - from Livezey (2003) - features paintings by Julian Hume]. Within the last few years he and Richard Zusi published a major effort to use morphological data to resolve the phylogeny of all birds (Livezey & Zusi 2001, 2006, 2007). They documented and illustrated a gigantic number of characters and their work has been, and will be, cited in every subsequent study of avian phylogeny.

Friends of Brad know that he went through a hard time after the break-up of his marriage. But he got through it, and within just the last two years or so seemed to become increasingly active, with major works appearing on the phylogeny of shorebirds (Livezey 2009, 2010). His Carnegie Museum webpage shows that he was hard at work on other projects, including a really interesting one on hornbills (Livezey 2011, in prep). He was devoted to his dog and often chose not to travel for fear of leaving his friend behind. He was a good birder.

We've lost a major contributor to global ornithology. As usual at times like this, I think of his family and friends and send my sincere condolences.

Brad's death has also been covered at Cryptomundo. Thanks to Gareth Dyke for help.

Refs - -

Livezey, B. C. 1988. Morphometrics of flightlessness in the Alcidae. The Auk 105, 681-698.

- . 1989. Morphometric patterns in Recent and fossil penguins (Aves, Sphenisciformes). Journal of Zoology 219, 269-307.

- . 1990. Evolutionary morphology of flightlessness in the Auckland Island teal. The Condor 92, 639-673.

- . 1991. A phylogenetic analysis and classification of recent dabbling ducks (Tribe Anatini) based on comparative morphology. The Auk 108, 471-507.

- . 1992. Flightlessness in the Galapagos cormorant (Compsohalieus [Nannopterum] harrisi): heterochrony, giantism and specialization. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 105, 155-224.

- . 1993. An ecomorphological review of the dodo (Raphus cucullatus) and solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria), flightless Columbiformes of the Mascarene Islands. Journal of Zoology 230, 247-292.

- . 1995a. Phylogeny and evolutionary ecology of modern seaducks (Anatidae: Mergini). The Condor 97, 233-255.

- . 1995b. A phylogenetic analysis of the whistling and white-backed ducks (Anatidae: Dendrocygninae) using morphological characters. Annals of Carnegie Museum 64, 65-97.

- . 1996a. A phylogenetic analysis of geese and swans (Anseriformes: Anserinae), including selected fossil species. Systematic Biology 45, 415-450.

- . 1996b. A phylogenetic analysis of modern pochards (Anatidae: Aythyini). The Auk 113, 74-93.

- . 1996c. A phylogenetic reassessment of the tadornine-anatine divergence (Aves: Anseriformes: Anatidae). Annals of Carnegie Museum 65, 27-88.

- . 1997a. A phylogenetic classification of waterfowl (Aves: Anseriformes), including selected fossil species. Annals of Carnegie Museum 66, 457-496.

- . 1997b. A phylogenetic analysis of basal Anseriformes, the fossil Presbyornis, and the interordinal relationships of waterfowl. Zoological Journal of Linnean Society 121, 361-428.

- . 1998. A phylogenetic analysis of the Gruiformes (Aves) based on morphological characters, with an emphasis on the rails (Rallidae). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B 353, 2077-2151.

- . 2003. Evolution of flightlessness in Rails (Gruiformes: Rallidae): phylogenetic, ecomorphological, and ontogenetic perspectives. Ornithological Monographs 53, 1-654.

- . 2009. Phylogenetics of modern shorebirds (Charadriiformes) based on phenotypic evidence: I - Characterization. Bulletin of Carnegie Museum of Natural History 40, 1-96.

- . 2010. Phylogenetics of modern shorebirds (Charadriiformes) based on phenotypic evidence: analysis and discussion. Zoological Journal of Linnean Society 160, 567-618.

- . 2011. Phenotypic phylogenetics of hornbills (Coraciiformes: Bucerotidae): a paleotropical radiation of sedentary avian omnivores. Bulletin of Carnegie Museum of Natural History, in prep.

- . & Humphrey, P. S. 1985a. Territoriality and interspecific aggression in steamer-ducks. The Condor 87, 154-157.

- . & Humphrey, P. S. 1985b. Interspecific aggression in steamer-ducks. The Condor 87, 567-568.

- . & Humphrey, P. S. 1986. Flightlessness in steamer-ducks (Anatidae: Tachyeres): its morphological bases and probably evolution. Evolution 40, 540-558.

- . & Zusi, R. L. 2001. Higher-order phylogenetics of modern Aves based on comparative anatomy. Netherlands Journal of Zoology 51, 179-205.

- . & Zusi, R. L. 2006. Higher-order phylogeny of modern birds (Theropoda, Aves: Neornithes) based on comparative anatomy: I. - Methods and characters. Bulletin of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History 37, 1-556.

- . & Zusi, R. L. 2007. Higher-order phylogeny of modern birds (Theropoda, Aves: Neornithes) based on comparative anatomy. II. Analysis and discussion. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 149, 1-95.

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56 is no age to die. Truly tragic and a great loss.

Brad was a good guy. We met at Berkeley/Stanford when I was a grad student/postdoc and had some nice chats about bird (and non-avian theropod) anatomy, and corresponded occasionally after that. He was a very competent anatomist (he loved the glory of anatomical detail) and systematist. His death is a terrible blow to ornithology.

Nice post Darren.

Brad had a very positive energy about him and a wicked sense of humour. He was my PhD external examiner in 2000 and we kept in close touch since then. Last visited with him in Pittsburg during the SVP meeting. I absolutely echo what John wrote: he is a huge loss to ornithology. He has set the standard (very high) for anatomical work.

By Gareth Dyke (not verified) on 09 Feb 2011 #permalink

Sorry for your loss. He sounded as if he was quite an interesting person. He'll be missed.

This is indeed a terrible loss. I never had the pleasure of meeting or talking with Dr Livezey, but feel as if I somehow knew him anyway, by virtue of reading many of his papers.

By Pete Moulton (not verified) on 09 Feb 2011 #permalink

I read many of his exquisite work

He will be sadly missed
My heart goes out to his family and friends

By Wilbert Friesen (not verified) on 09 Feb 2011 #permalink

I just heard this yesterday. I didn't know Brad well, and some of our correspondence got a little heated, but he made many valuable contributions to science. You have in fact omitted one I consider very important, his first duck paper:

Livezey, B. C. 1986. A phylogenetic analysis of recent anseriform genera using morphological characters. Auk 103:737-754.

I spent quite some time in museums with skeletal specimens in front of me, going over those characters.

By John Harshman (not verified) on 09 Feb 2011 #permalink

What a loss, I visited the Carnegie to work through their bird osteology collections. He had a folder of his reprints ready for me (it was 5in thick). His work with Dick Zusi is/was instrumental to much of my avian work.

Did Dr Livezey know of your (you, gentle reader's) admiration? Is there anybody else you admire who doesn't know, and who you would regret not having told, were they, too, to die unexpectedly? Get busy, time is short.

Each of the regular posters here has made my life noticeably better. Thank you all.

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 09 Feb 2011 #permalink

I echo Nathan's remarks. I'm filled with so much sadness right now for the loss of my friend and filled with equal amounts of regret that I did not keep up with him over the years. I knew Brad when I was in grad school at KU in the late 80s and early 90s. Brad's office was next to mine and I simply loved spending time talking with him and Doug Siegel-Causey (and hearing the two of them laugh it up loudly while I was trying to work). He was an amazing and hard-working scientist who helped convinced me to study phylogenetics. We have lost a great man.

By Brent Burt (not verified) on 10 Feb 2011 #permalink