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Zoologist to Discuss Galapagos Bird Research in Mary Murphy Lecture

By Clarke News  |  February 24, 2016

Patricia Parker, a senior scientist at the St. Louis Zoo, will speak on “Disease Ecology and Biogeography: Galapagos Birds and their Parasites” at the Clarke University Mary Murphy, BVM, Endowed Lecture in Biology on Tuesday, March 8, 2016 at 7:30 p.m. in Jansen Hall.

Admission is free.

Parker, who also serves as the Des Lee Professor of Zoological Studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, will discuss her research in the Galapagos in 2001 and 2002.

Parker led a four-institution collaborative effort between the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the St. Louis Zoo, and two institutions in Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park and the Charles Darwin Foundation. She will discuss her work in attempting to understand the threats posed to Galapagos endemic birds by the arrival of new pathogens.

“Our goal is to keep Galapagos, where there have been zero extinctions of endemic birds, from following the same sad fate as the Hawaiian Islands, where a large proportion of the endemic birds have gone extinct due to the arrival of the avian malarial parasite and the avian pox virus,” Parker said. “We have documented that both of these infectious agents exist in Galapagos now, and we are trying to understand what opportunities exist for interventions to keep the islands the model for wildlife conservation that they have been for 60 years.”

Parker spent her childhood in the southern United States, where she says she was the kind of kid who disobeyed commands like, “Whatever you do, don’t go down in the creek!” She earned a bachelor’s in Zoology and Ph.D. in Behavioral Ecology at the University of North Carolina. She began learning the genetic techniques that would be critical for the rest of her research endeavors during post-doctoral work at Purdue University.