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NMSU professor to share travel adventures while studying parrots

For more than 25 years, New Mexico State University professor Timothy F. Wright has been traveling to the tropics to observe parrots in their natural environment. His work has taken him to Belize, Australia, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Costa Rica.

Wright, a biology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences, will share his experiences as part of the college?s ?Global Connections? lecture series. His presentation, ?Life as a Tropical Biologist: How I become one and why I think it?s a good thing to be one,? is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 8, in the Gerald Thomas Hall Auditorium, Room 194.

?Costa Rica is like a second home to me, because of the ongoing research projects I?ve had there,? Wright said. ?It infused me with an excitement for research in the tropics that?s never really left.?

Wright is interested in studying the behavior of parrots. What began as a study in communication has led to projects on genetic differences in populations, evolutionary relationships between species, cognitive abilities, conservation and projects in understanding how parrots? brains work.

The most recent visit was a Faculty-Led International Program (FLiP) course in Costa Rica last year with Bill Gould, economics professor. The itinerary included visits to two field stations in northern Costa Rica for 10 days in March 2014.

?Beyond the scientific questions that we set out to address, I learned a lot about the larger world; how people live differently in different places and how there are many similarities in people no matter where they are,? Wright said.

?Parrots are confined to the tropics, with very few exceptions. If you want to study them in their natural environment, you have to go to those environments. That was a conscious decision to study a species that aren?t readily found in the Northern Hemisphere. Because they are more inaccessible, they had been less studied; that meant there was much still to be discovered with them.?

Wright said he hopes his presentation will instill in others a desire to visit these places themselves.

?There have been so many unexpected visions and occurrences, you sort of start to take them for granted,? he said. ?When I first started reading, for example, magical realism books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others, I couldn?t imagine a place where it could rain for a hundred years or hoards of ants could carry away babies, and after I?d spent some time in the tropics, it all seemed much less magical and much more real.?

The ?Global Connections? series features faculty members? trips around the world. The purpose is to provide an opportunity for members of the campus and surrounding community to listen and ask questions of NMSU professors about the kind of global first-hand experience they might otherwise never encounter.

Over the last two years, lectures have explored places such as Australia, Germany, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Columbia, Cuba, Eastern Europe, Ireland, Italy and Southeast Asia. All lectures are open to the public at no charge.