Australian Academy of Sciences, American Psychological Society honor Pepperberg

Feb. 28, 2000

Contact: Irene M. Pepperberg,
520-621-8883 (UA) or 617-253-0364 (MIT)
Relevant web link, the Alex Foundation

Irene M. Pepperberg, known internationally for her research with grey parrots, can now add two more honors to her resume.

Pepperberg won the 2000 Selby Fellowship from the Australian Academy of Sciences and was made a Fellow of the American Psychological Society. She is associate professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology with a joint appointment in the department of psychology at the University of Arizona. Pepperberg also is an affiliate in the UA Program on Neuroscience.

The Selby Fellowship entitles Pepperberg to an all-expenses-paid trip in various cities in Australia for a lecture tour on her work. Pepperberg plans to go in June for three weeks. According to Pepperberg, people from all over the world were nominated for this fellowship. She was nominated by a colleague in Australia.

"It's truly amazing that I was chosen for this fellowship because in Australia some parrots (like the birds that I study) are considered agricultural pests," said Pepperberg.

Pepperberg's research focuses on the Congo African Grey parrot to determine its cognitive and communicative abilities. She also compares this bird's cognitive and communicative abilities with those of great apes, young children and marine mammals. She studies the mechanisms of parrot learning as well as the outcomes.

Pepperberg has been working with grey parrots for almost 23 years. Her work is funded through grants from the National Science Foundation and the Alex Foundation, a tax-exempt foundation.

Pepperberg was also made a fellow of the American Psychological Society in December.

"This is a really great honor for me because it means that I am accepted and respected by my peers. Anyone who works in psychology can become a member of the American Psychological Society, but not anyone can become a fellow. The process for becoming a fellow is very, very selective," said Pepperberg during a phone interview.

Pepperberg is also a fellow of the American Psychological Association, the Animal Behavior Society and the American Ornithologists' Union.

She recently was featured in the New York Times, Discover, New Scientist and in the Public Broadcasting Corp. series "Nature."

Pepperberg's new book, "The Alex Studies: Cognitive and Communicative Abilities of Grey Parrots," published by Harvard University Press, brings her "groundbreaking experiments together into a panoramic view," said the New York Times Book Review.

Her stated goal in the book is "to provoke awareness in humans that animals have capacities that are far greater than we were once lead to expect, and to remind us that all we need to examine these capacities are some enlightened research tools."

Pepperberg joined the University of Arizona in January 1991. She received her doctorate in chemical physics from Harvard University. She is currently a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab in Cambridge, Mass., until August. 2000.

***UA News Services *** *****


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