The Michele Panuccio Memorial Grant: in honour of his work, in support of young researchers

Photo by Keith Luke – Unsplash

Since its foundation as a non-profit organisation back in 1966, the Raptor Research Foundation (RRF) has continuously advanced the science, conservation and understanding of birds of prey. In its strive towards the accumulation and dissemination of scientific information about raptors, each year the Foundation organises scientific conferences, provides support, networking opportunities, competitive grants and awards for student researchers and conservationists.

A heart-felt opportunity

This year, the prestigious international institution has added a new award to its existing 12 grants: the Michele Panuccio Memorial Grant, dedicated to the late Italian ornithologist and ecologist (1976-2019). The award, annually available to both members and non-members of the RRF, provides financial support to young researchers (< 35 years old) for their field work on raptor migration and conservation in the European region. The Fund, established by Panuccio’s parents in 2021, supplies the winner with up to €1,500 to be used in support of research into:

• raptor behavior, such as differential migration between age and sex classes, the effect of weather and atmospheric currents on migration, social interactions, and orientation and navigation strategies, with a special focus on how raptors overcome large ecological barrier such as the Mediterranean Sea.

• raptor conservation, for which Michele developed a particular interest as park ranger at the Decima-Malafede Nature Reserve (Rome), where he learned the importance of natural protected areas management and monitoring for the conservation of local raptors.

• raptor monitoring, which has been a long-standing interest of Michele, and to which he devoted much of his final years at the Strait of Messina.

Continuing Michele’s work

“Michele will be remembered for the discovery of the migration strategy of the Greek Short-toed Snake Eagles, which avoid crossing the Aegean Sea by concentrating on the slopes of Mount Olympus en route to the Bosphorus. This strategy is like that followed by Italian conspecifics, which avoid the Channel of Sicily by crossing the Mediterranean at the
Strait of Gibraltar. In his final years, using both direct visual observation and radar monitoring, he established a standardised monitoring program at the Strait of Messina – one of the most important European migration bottlenecks.”
Ultimately, the Panuccio grant seeks to help advance fields that Michele worked on with contagious passion and meticulousness. It’s a testimony to his life and work, to “pass the baton” on to a new generation of researchers and hornitologists.