After the announcement of the Indianapolis Prize winner in Indiana, Pat Wright visited the White House, was interviewed by NatGeo and National Science Foundation, was an honored guest at the Malagasy Embassy in NYC, helped to close the New York Stock Exchange, and was featured on HuffPost Live with Josh Zepps!
Dr. Patricia Wright was in Indianapolis, Indiana for the announcement of the Indianapolis Prize winner. Check out the links below for more information:
USA Today - Lemur Scientist First Woman to Receive Indianapolis Prize
Newsday - Patricia Wright, lemur studies expert at Stony Brook University, wins prestigious Indianapolis Prize
The new IMAX 3D film Island of Lemurs: Madagascar will premiere on April 4th, 2014. The film features Dr. Wright and the work being done at Centre ValBio!
Learn more about the film and watch the trailer here!
Check out an interview with Dr. Wright, director/cinematographer David Douglas, and producer/writer Drew Fellman.
(Taken from NPR)
It all started in 1968 at a pet shop called Fish 'N' Cheeps in New York's Greenwich Village. On the way to a Jimi Hendrix concert, Patricia Wright and her husband dashed into the shop to escape heavy rain. There, a two-pound ball of fur from the Amazon captured their attention. A few weeks and $40 later, this owl monkey became their pet; later on they acquired a female as well.
At the time, next to nothing was known of the social lives of nocturnal owl monkeys in the wild. Driven by intense curiosity about what she was observing in the monkey pair, especially the male Herbie's enthusiastic paternal care when the female Kendra gave birth, Wright decided she would become the first to explore those wild lives. Her memoir High Moon Over The Amazon, published last week, describes how she made that happen.
When I read the book, I was struck by the underlying message. Like many other anthropologists, I had read and taught her work on lemur behavior and conservation in Madagascar, and celebrated her being named a MacArthur "genius" Fellow in 1989. But the back story I hadn't known — the tale of Wright's struggle early on as a single mother without a Ph.D. to be taken seriously by male academics and granting agencies.
It's a story that may speak clearly to students, perhaps most of all to girls and young women who are seized by a fierce desire to observe and help save the natural world.
I enjoyed High Moon for its blend of adventure and science, and for the questions it raises about what credentials are needed to be taken seriously as a scientist. We are primates who love a good story; the power of Wright's story lays in showing how curiosity and persistence are fundamental keys to pursuing a life in science.
So, I invited Pat Wright to join me in conversation about the book via email. I hope you enjoy the exchange.
BJK: High Moon focuses on your years in the 1970s and 1980s studying South American monkeys. Yet you're most known for your later research on lemurs. Why did you choose to tell the early story?
PW: High Moon is the unique story of how a simple curiosity about my pet monkey's behavior led to my lifelong obsession with the wilds from where it came. The book describes my struggles as a young single mother venturing to a remote jungle of the Amazon with a toddler, on a quest many deemed impossible. When I set off on my journey to Peru, I was a city dwelling housewife attempting to find answers that qualified scientists hadn't been able to find, so the story is also about how a mother-daughter team made a dream come true. The Madagascar story is an important one, and certainly a big part of my life — that story will come later.
BJK: Do you have a favorite owl-monkey story from early field work that you could share with us?
PW: The first night that I was in the rainforest alone, I became very lost. But I knew the monkeys were overhead because they threw down fruits and made calls back and forth to each other. At almost dawn a herd of peccaries (wild pigs) thundered past me as I climbed up and hung onto a tree so not to be trampled. When the sunlight peeked through the canopy, I was glad to be alive, happy not to have been trampled by wild boars, eaten by a jaguar or attacked by a poisonous snake. Then suddenly I heard a familiar call. Above me, giving an angry alarm call was one, then two, owl monkeys. They scolded me for ten minutes and then disappeared into a hole in a nearby tree. That was the first time I saw an owl monkey in the wild, and I was ecstatic. That dawn the first study of the behavior of the owl monkey in the wild had begun.
BJK: High Moon is so much fun to read, and also conveys fascinating information about other primates and the process of doing research in gorgeous but remote ecosystems. I was surprised though that you didn't state emphatically that owning monkeys or other primates as pets is nowadays not only discouraged but seen as unethical and unfair to the animals. Isn't this an important message for readers?
PW: Indeed nowadays we know how unfair and unethical keeping monkeys as pets. Back then I didn't know about the evils of the exotic pet trade, and certainly not about the painful trials of owning a monkey. I hope that with the knowledge the public has now in regards to the pet trade, my book inspires people to care more about these amazing animals in the wild. I would never own a monkey now.
BJK: When you were age 34, with ground-breaking research on the monkeys already completed, your advisor Warren Kinzey told you, "Pat, nobody will take you or your results seriously unless you have a Ph.D." Of course, you went on to earn that Ph.D. Did you think back then that our system — with all its barriers to researchers with skill and insight but without doctorates — was fair? Has your view on this question changed in the intervening years?
PW: I didn't question it as being unfair, but rather as an opportunity to make myself a valuable player in this field. As someone who has trained almost 30 Ph.D. students, I still believe that getting a Ph.D. is an important ticket for success. I feel that my responsibility now is to use my Ph.D. to train the next generation of primatologists, tropical biologists and conservationists. But nowadays, for those who don't have a doctorate and want to do their part, there are certainly more opportunities to study and protect tropical habitat. The important thing is to take action.
BJK: Issues of women and science kept coming to the fore for me as I read the book. Does your book convey a message for young women?
PW: Absolutely! I hope that young women will read my book and become inspired to follow their dreams, and especially if they want to become scientists. There were years of tough slogging and being a single mother was also challenging. Not giving up is the key, and I think young women of today should know that it might not be easy, but they should not get discouraged, because in the long run the struggle is worth it.
Before primatologist Patricia Chapple Wright became the world's foremost expert on lemurs, she was enchanted by another primate--Aotus, the owl monkey, or "monkey of the night." But along her journey to discover the behavior of these unique nocturnal creatures, Wright finds more than she expected about family, human nature, and herself.
It all starts in a New York City pet shop when Wright and her husband buy an owl monkey whose lively and rambunctious ways soon lead the young couple to South America to acquire him a mate. But while Wright's monkey family is growing, her own begins to fall apart when her husband leaves her and her daughter. Undeterred by her lack of academic experience, Wright sets out as a single mother to study primate behavior in the wild, including a year at a research station in the remote jungles of Peru. There she encounters jaguars, poisonous snakes, army ants, and massive floods that threaten her and her daughter's lives, as well as moments of great clarity and beauty.
From New York City in the 1960s to the depths of the Amazon in the 1970s and 80s, this story of one woman's transformation from Brooklyn housewife to an accomplished scientist will captivate fans of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas. High Moon Over the Amazon is a thrilling memoir of adventure, inspiration, and of falling in love with a species not so unlike our own.
Buy the book!
Dr. Patricia Wright has been nominated for the 2014 Indianapolis Prize. Thirty-nine conservationists who have dedicated their lives to saving the Earth’s endangered species have been nominated to receive the biennial Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation!
Read the press release.
With support from Primate Conservation Inc. and Primate Action Fund - Conservation International, Pat Wright's 1st year students, Fanny M. Cornejo and Santiago Cassalett are in Madagascar carrying research on Varecia and Avahi, respectively. The best of luck to them!
To commemorate Charles Darwin's birthday, Dr. Patricia Wright has been selected as the invited speaker for the Darwin Lecture at Ohio University. Her talk entitled "If only Darwin had gone to Madagascar..." will address Madagascar's biological diversity, with an emphasis on the amazing radiation of lemur species.
Taken from Stony Brook University News
Scientists Discover a New Understanding of Why Female Primates Outlive Males
World-renowned primatologist Patricia Wright co-authors a study on the latest issue of Behavioral Ecology
Are females the safer sex? Yes, according to researchers studying aging in an endangered lemur in Madagascar known as the Milne-Edwards’ sifaka. After observing these animals for more than two decades in the wild in Madagascar, co-author Patricia Wright, Director at the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments, a Professor of Biological Anthropology at Stony Brook University and Executive Director of Centre ValBio, had a hunch that females were living longer than their male counterparts. The findings, "Risky business: Sex differences in mortality and dispersal in a polygynous, monomorphic lemur," have been published online in the February 28 issue of Behavioral Ecology.
Females tend to outlive males in many animals, including humans. But in the Milne-Edwards’ sifaka — a rainforest-dweller with orange-red eyes, a black face and woolly dark brown fur —the sexes do not seem to differ in any of the ways thought to give females a survival advantage in other animals.
Sex differences in aggression, hormones, or appearance drive males of many species to an earlier grave. But in the Milne-Edwards’ sifaka, males and females have similar levels of testosterone, and are equally likely to pick fights.
Both sexes stray from the safety of their social groups, explained lead author Stacey Tecot of the University of Arizona. They also grow at similar rates and reach roughly the same size, have similar coloration, and are equally likely to be spotted by predators.
A Milne-Edwards’ sifaka in Madagascar.For the study, Tecot, Wright and colleagues analyzed detailed records of births, deaths, and dispersal behavior for more than 70 individual lemurs living in Ranomafana National Park in southeastern Madagascar — a data set spanning 23 years from 1986 to 2009. According to the data, most males died by their late teens. But females lived, on average, into their early 30s. What could explain the gender gap? By taking a closer look at dispersal behavior across the lifespan, the researchers think they have a clue. In Milne-Edwards’ sifaka society, both sexes are known to leave the groups where they were born in search of a new group to call their own — sometimes dispersing repeatedly throughout their lives.
The data suggest that on average, males and females disperse equally frequently, and wander just as far. But when the researchers broke down dispersal across their lifespan, from infancy to old age, they found that males and females differed in their timing. The differences do not start to emerge until later in life. Females generally stopped dispersing after a certain age, typically when they reached 11 years old. But males switched groups three times in an average lifespan. “Female lemurs are leaders,” said Dr. Wright. “It’s exciting to know that even when females lead they are still living longer.”
Researchers don’t know why females eventually settle down, whereas males continue to strike off on their own. But dispersing at older ages could carry greater costs, especially if older animals are not as agile or quick to heal from injury.
A Milne-Edwards’ sifaka in Madagascar.“When you’re a social animal and you go off on your own into unfamiliar territory, finding food can be more of a challenge. Plus you don’t have the extra protection of other group members who can help look out for predators. Even when you find a new group to join, you may have to fight your way in and there’s a chance of getting injured in a fight,” said co-author Jennifer Verdolin of the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center in Durham, North Carolina.
The study does not help explain why women tend to outlive men in humans, the authors caution. But it does suggest that fine-scale studies of risk-taking behavior at different ages could reveal age-specific mortality risk factors that researchers have not considered.
You can read this publication here, or download it from here.
This research is funded by the National Science Foundation. Brian Gerber of Colorado State University and Stephen King of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst were also authors of this study.
On February 21st, Dr. Wright will be giving the conference "Lemur Conservation in Madacasgar: Updates from Ranomafana National Park" at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry for the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions's talk series, which are sponsored by the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology, ESF Women's Caucus and the Graduate Student Association.
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