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SAMPOSIUM – Sam Pate Naturalist Symposium

A lecture series in honor of Mr. Sam Pate’s Legacy, plus children’s programming, overnight birdwatching experience at the Historic W.C. Bradley Farms, and Virtual Art Auction.

SAMPOSIUM's inaugural event focuses on Mr. Pate's greatest passion - birds.

One of the true joys of living in the South, perhaps even a notch above great barbecue and compelling college football, is the year-round symphony of birdsong that plays outside our windows. Bird fever, which in some blossoms into a bona-fide addiction, is something that we plan to embrace and promote during our upcoming two-day Sam Pate Naturalist Symposium at the Columbus Botanical Garden.

Named in memory of a beloved teacher, local and regional birding luminary, and nature-lover extraordinaire, this inaugural festival will feature both a day of lectures on all things ornithological and an afternoon of family activities aimed at introducing children and parents to the wonderful world of birds.


Illustration of red bird on branch

Dr. Hill is trained as an evolutionary and behavioral ecologist; he leads an integrative research program investigating the function and evolution of animal ornamentation. He has been a professor at Auburn University for 27 years and holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Michigan. His current research interest is the co-adaptation and co-evolution of mitonuclear elements within eukaryotes.

Dr. Hill and Mr. Sam Pate had multiple interactions over the years. Mr. Sam Pate invited Dr. Hill to speak at Brookstone on two different occasions and both times drew in a large audience. For over 40 years Mr. Sam Pate was in charge of the Audubon Society  annual Christmas Bird Count at the Eufaula NWR in Eufaula, Alabama. Dr. Hill participated in that count for many years. Like Mr. Sam Pate, Dr. Hill has shown a dedication and passion for teaching others about the wonders of ornithology, nature, and science. He is instilling a love of birds, science, nature, and research in his students, colleagues, and communities near and far. 

Dr. Hill is trained as an evolutionary and behavioral ecologist; he leads an integrative research program investigating the function and evolution of animal ornamentation. He has been a professor at Auburn University for 27 years and holds a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Michigan. His current research interest is the co-adaptation and co-evolution of mitonuclear elements within eukaryotes.

Dr. Hill and Mr. Sam Pate had multiple interactions over the years. Mr. Sam Pate invited Dr. Hill to speak at Brookstone on two different occasions and both times drew in a large audience. For over 40 years Mr. Sam Pate was in charge of the Audubon Society  annual Christmas Bird Count at the Eufaula NWR in Eufaula, Alabama. Dr. Hill participated in that count for many years. Like Mr. Sam Pate, Dr. Hill has shown a dedication and passion for teaching others about the wonders of ornithology, nature, and science. He is instilling a love of birds, science, nature, and research in his students, colleagues, and communities near and far. 

Dr. Hill has published six books, written over 270 peer-reviewed articles, and has given presentations and keynote addresses to audiences worldwide. His contributions to science through his research are many. 

Dr. Hill has received numerous prestigious awards, including Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science (2017), the William Brewster Memorial Award: Lifetime Achievement in Ornithology (2014); the Creative Research Award: The highest award for research at Auburn University (2010); the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) (1997), and the list goes on. The above details hardly scratch the surface of the countless contributions and accomplishments Dr. Hill has made in the field of science and ornithology over the course of his career. For a more comprehensive overview, please visit www.thehilllab.com.

We hope you will join us for this special event. We live in a part of the world that is home to many unique habitats, and these natural spaces play host to a spectacular diversity of bird species throughout the year. Use this chance to celebrate that heritage, to learn, and to honor the memory of a man who devoted his life to teaching and fostering a deep relationship with the wild world around us in all those whose lives he touched.

Please note – If Mr. Sam Pate touched your life and you would like to see this Naturalist Symposium continue annually, please donate to our SAMPOSIUM Fund. This fund will be strictly used to secure future speakers and cover the symposiums’ expenses. Donation and ticket links are included in the link below.


Mr. Sam Pate was a beloved teacher whose enthusiasm for birds, critters, and the great outdoors spread like wildfire to his students, colleagues, and friends.

Here’s to continuing his legacy as SAMPOSIUM aims to share with all of Columbus and surrounding communities the wonders of the natural world and how it relates to us as human beings.

Picture of Mr. Sam Pate and Lucy at a harbor in Maine. It is evident that each pet of The Pate’s lived a charmed life full of love and adventures.

SAMPOSIUM Fund Information . . .

While we are excited about the inaugural SAMPOSIUM, our hope is that this will become a yearly event that will bring inspirational and engaging speakers to Columbus. This can be done only with the support of our community. The Columbus Botanical Garden has set up a dedicated fund to ensure the continuation of Mr. Pate’s passion for birds and nature. All gifts and contributions to this fund will be used only towards growing our Spring Naturalist Symposium into a self-sustaining celebration of nature and education for people of all ages in Columbus and beyond.

If Sam Pate impacted your life please consider contributing to the SAMposium Fund.

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