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Otterbein Professor Young to study endangered parrots with new grant

Otterbein Professor Young to study endangered parrots with new grant


Associate Professor of Biology and Earth Science Anna Young will be studying the cape parrot, a new species of parrot that was reclassified last year as a completely separate bird from two other similar species. She is able to begin this new research thanks to a recent grant she was awarded.

“The Eppley Foundation is dedicated to scientific research and work supporting endangered species,” said Young. “This generous grant from them will help fund myself and two students to travel to South Africa, find the cape parrots and record their vocal patterns.”

According to their website, the Eppley Foundation for Research was incorporated in 1947 for the purpose of increasing knowledge in pure or applied science in chemistry, physics and biology through study, research and publication.

“It is important to the Foundation that the work proposed be novel in its insights and unlikely to be underway elsewhere. The Foundation is prepared to take risks,” said their website.

Young not only will be studying a newly classified species of parrot, but she and her team will be doing research that is a little different than simply observing and counting population numbers.

“For me, the most intriguing aspect of parrots is their vocal learning capabilities. Our research will focus on whether these very isolated groups of a small species of parrots actually have their own dialect, similar to how humans in distinct parts of the United States have different ways of speaking, differentiating themselves based on location. We want to learn just how different, if at all, the cape parrot’s dialect is to the gray-headed and brown-necked parrot, the other two new species,” Young said.

Understanding if the cape parrot has its own dialect will help with conservation and relocation efforts, making sure not to add additional stress on these already endangered birds by isolating them further from their known flocks.

Young and her team of student researchers will travel to South Africa in May 2018. While there, they will be working with the Cape Parrot Project to track and record the parrots in the wild and finally compare the recordings to the gray parrot’s and other cape parrot groupings’ vocalizations. Young has worked with them before on previous trips, funded by the Otterbein Office of Academic Affairs.

“I would not be able to have this amazing opportunity to do ground-breaking work on cape parrots or offer this learning experience to students without the support of Otterbein. They helped make this all possible by allowing me to create these international connections.”

 

Learn more about the Otterbein Department of Biology and Earth Science.