Thick-billed Parrots: Preparing

Thick-billed parrot

Thick-billed parrot

You know, there really is a lot to do. We all know that preparing for a vacation can be rather nauseating. That moment when you suddenly realize there are only two days left before you leave, you haven’t even begun to attack the colossal laundry basket or shop for travel-size shampoo, nor have you even selected which book you are going to take (which, of course, you will never read anyway). Well, try preparing for conservation fieldwork!

We are currently readying ourselves to travel to the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico, where we will be joining local scientists to conduct research on the health of the endangered thick-billed parrots. In a nutshell, we want to see whether habitat changes mean the parrots are being exposed to new diseases and, if so, whether these diseases are adversely affecting wild populations of these unique birds.

There are three of us going south to carry out this research: Dr. Nadine Lamberski is the lead veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park and is a long-time researcher on thick-billed parrots. J.P. Montagne is an ecologist with the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research with vast field experience and (thankfully) fluency in Spanish. And then there is myself, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Wildlife Disease Laboratories with the Institute for Conservation Research. A multidisciplinary team for a multidisciplinary project!

While Nadine and J.P are seasoned field researchers, this will be the first time I have stepped outside the relative comfort of my warm and well-equipped laboratory, where electricity flows continually and where the coffee pot is never more than a few steps away (this is significant). I will be substituting this for a mobile mountainside “lab” where electricity may (or may not) be available, where walls may (or may not) be available, and where my knowledge of the language extends to “Can you please tell me where the elephants are?” Which, unless I am very much mistaken, may not be entirely useful in northern Mexico.

So with less than a week to go before we head south across the border, we all find ourselves finalizing permits, testing equipment, fixing equipment (!), ordering supplies, keeping our fingers crossed that the supplies actually arrive in time, shopping for travel-size shampoo, selecting which book to take (which, of course, we will never read anyway), and for me personally – learning how to adapt my one Spanish phrase to “Can you please tell me where the parrots are,” believing as I do that it might take a while to find an elephant down there. So you see, there really is a lot to do!

Simon Anthony is a research fellow with the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research. He will be conducting field research in the Sierra Madres during August and September. Check back for updates on how he copes with field research and for pictures from his research sites.

12 Responses to Thick-billed Parrots: Preparing

  1. I would just like to tell you Simon Anthony that your sense of humor will take you far as I chuckled out loud reading about your up coming adventure. Look at it this way, you certainly not alone in not being able to speak the language and sometimes the less you know the better….lol. I hope it will be a very enjoyable trip and that you will have much to tell us upon your return. I am sure it will all be well worth the sacrifice of luxuries and that you will appreciate home when you return. Have a great trip!!!!

  2. I second what Connie above said, you have a great sense of humour and I thoroughly enjoyed your post! The parrots are absolutely gorgeous and so colorful! Best of luck on your field trip and research!

  3. yeah Simon is funny…good luck Simon..looking forward to more blogs from you…keep us entertain and well informed

  4. Before my family traveled to South America, my grandmother taught my mom how to say “please help me” in Spanish. As mom found this to be the most useful phrase she learned, you might want to add it to your vocabulary. :)

  5. Simon, it sounds as though this field trip will be real interesting, fun, and challenging! I love your writing style. it’s informative, interesting, and also has humor. ( which is important, I think! ) don’t you think it will be a nice change to get out of the lab for awhile!? it will be like leaving a cave!! ha ha! when all is said & done, you will feel like you are returning to a ritzy hotel style lab! lol ! I hope your field trip is successful and that you learn all you aspire to learn! don’t forget to up-date us!

  6. You really are hilarious. I’ll be sharing this one with my friends and family; looks like you’ll have a lot of readers!


    p.s. Necesitamos practicar tu espanol viernes. Tu puedes ensenarme la palabra para “parrot.” :-)

  7. Hi Simon, Your Grandma and I hope you have a very successful field trip. We will be looking forward to your next instalment.Keep up the good work. Love Grandma & Grandad

  8. Mum and Dad say have a good trip! I have no doubt that as well as parrots, you will also discover any insects that may be there…and maybe even the odd elephant or two! Hope you actually remembered the shampoo after all the ‘press’ you gave it

  9. We all send best wishes for a successful trip. Don’t know about meeting ‘an elephant!’ but, a chance encounter with a puma or jaguar might be interesting!!. On thinking about it perhaps ‘an elephant’ would be preferable!!
    Look forward to hearing all about The Sierra Madre. Hope you are taking lots of photos.

  10. Clearly living the “American Dream” has already affected your spelling as I see that ‘z’s are beginning to replace ‘s’s – surprised Grandad didn’t pick up on that…..!

    I was going to write something witty but from the history it looks like that you’re failing totally to provide any sort of updates so there’s not much point. That or you’ve been eaten by a mountain Jaguar or other such dangerous aminal (kung-fu guinea pig / death hamster), in which case there still isn’t any point!

    Phil: for the record – told you I was a better brother than you….

  11. Looks like you’ve found your soul-mate in that parrot! Glad your trip seems to be going well. Hopefully we’ll hear more about it and see more pictures when you’re back over on your UK tour! I will want to see at least one picture of you attempting to climb a tree though………

    David, it would appear that your brief visit to the US last year has affected your spelling too!!!……..instead of substituting letters, you appear to be forgetting them altogether!! I have put the missing ‘d’ back into its rightful place….

    Grandparent, Grandmother, Grandma, Granddaughter, Grandfather, GranD-Dad!!

    Granddad: look lively!
    Phil: No pressure!

  12. I have a question, a question that I cant find the answer to on any other website, the question is what do humans want with the thick billed parrot? They must want something we used to hunt them didnt we?