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The Wright Lab :: New Mexico State University


November 2016
Aldo keeps the Wright Lab streak alive by wining the Best Undergrad Poster award at the Biosymposium. Thank you Aldo.

October 2016
The Wright Lab makes a strong showing at Biosymposium with 8 excellent presentations on parrots of all types, and ants. Grace also presents her latest poster at the University Research Council’s Research Fair.

September 2016
A review paper on the importance of social calls for the evolution of vocal learning by Tim, lab alum Ana Young and collaborator Kendra Sewall appears in Animal Behaviour.

Marcelo and Grace publish a beautiful paper in Methods in Ecology and Evolution that details the many uses of their R-based sound analysis warbleR. The paper is highlighted on Xeno-Canto for its utility in accessing that online bioacoustics database. Check it out!

August 2016
Dominique Hellmich officially joins the Wright Lab as the news PhD student. Welcome Dominique!

Clara Hansen starts her tenure as an HHMI Research Scholar and continues her work on budgerigar social networks and call sharing

June 2016
Tim and lab alum Chris Dahlin lead a two-pronged expedition to map vocal dialects in the yellow-naped amazon in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Other members include Molly Dupin and Alyssa Tremeloni from U Pitt Johnstown, Tom Lewis and Sophie Nazari from Ara Project, and Grace Smith Vidaurre and Dominique Hellmich from NMSU. This study now represents the longest running study of parrot vocalizations with surveys over a 22 year span. You can read about the team’s adventures in this blog.

Lab alum Osceola Whitney is as an Assistant Professor in Neuroscience at City College of New York. Awesome job Osceola!!

May 2016
Lab alum Erin Schirtzinger is now a research microbiologists with the USDA Arthropod-borne Animal Disease Research Unit in Manhattan Kansa.

April 2016
Grace Smith Vidaurre is awarded a highly competitive Fulbright Fellowship to study urban invasions by monk parakeets in Uruguay. On the same day she is awarded an AOU grant to fund the same study. Well done Grace!

Brian Ramos’s grant to study the Puerto Rican Parrot is renewed by the World Parrot Trust.

March 2016
Natalie Angier publishes an excellent article in the New York Times that reviews recent parrot research and discusses Parrots of the Wild.

National Geographic Magazine includes a short description of Wright Lab work on budgerigars in a photo page authored by Scott Burkhard.

February 2016
Our PhD grad Liz Hobson will be moving from her NMBIOS postdoc to a sweet second postdoc at the Santa Fe Institute as part of the ASU-SFI Center for the Study of Biosocial and Complex Systems partnership. Welcome back to the Land of Enchantment!

January 2016

Brian published an article in WPT’s Psittascene describing his work on the Puerto Rican parrot.

Grace presents a poster on monk parakeet invasion genomics at the SICB meetings.

December 2015
Marcelo successfully defends his PhD and becomes Dr. Araya-Salas forevermore. He has returned to Costa Rica to teach courses for OTS and UCR before starting his postdoc at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Aletz moves to his faculty dream job at his hometown Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo.

November 2015
The Wright Lab continues its streak of winning presentation awards at the Biosymposium! Congratulations to Grace for her best grad poster win, to Aldo and Emily for sharing the best undergo poster award, and to all the rest of the 8 lab members who gave excellent presentations.

Wright lab alumni Gael Sanchez will be starting an MS degree at Texas A&M Kingsville working on mule deer chronic wasting disease.

Marcelo and Tim presented invited talks at Animal Bioacoustics symposia at the Acoustic Society of America Fall Meetings.

October 2015
One of the first undergrads to work in the lab, Patrick McNamara, sends word that he and his wife have both a thriving toddler and a thriving joint chiropractic practice in St Louis.

Grace passes her comps in fine style.

Angela presents her work with Clara on budgie social networks at the University Research Fair.

September 2015
Marcelo travels to Germany for the International Bioacoustics Congress, where he will run a workshop on sound analysis in R and present his collaborative research.

August 2015
Tim and colleagues are awarded a renewal of the NIH SC1 grant to study the effects of the FoxP2 gene on adult vocal learning.

Justin, Aldo and Clara present the results of their summer research at the HHMI Poster Session.

Jessica Eberhard and Tim have a long awaited paper on parrot mitochondrial genomes appear in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution.

Tim gives an outreach talk to the Rotary Club of Las Cruces.

July 2015

Alexa’s outreach efforts during her summer internship with the USDA APHIS make the news.

Angela and Marcelo’s paper on evolutionary rates in learned parrot calls appears in Journal of Evolutionary Biology.

Cole leaves us to start his new PhD program at Mizzou. We’ll miss you Cole!

June 2015
Cole, Angela, Grace and Tim present at the ABS meetings in Anchorage and enjoy the endless summer days of Alaska.

Tawni moves to a lab manager position in the Tung Lab at Duke where she will be working on primate genetics. Bon voyage!

Marcelo and Grace present a well-attended workshop on sound analysis and R in Palo Verde NP in Costa Rica.

May 2015
Grace is awarded a scholarship to attend a month-long bioinformatics workshop at NCGR in Santa Fe

April 2015
Cole, Emily and Grace keep the Wright Lab streak alive by winning best presentation awards in the 2015 Biosymposium.

Marcelo is awarded the Biology Department’s Graduate Award for Excellence in Research, and the Traylor Memorial Scholarship in recognition of his many research accomplishments. Well done!

Tim gives an NMSU Global Connections talk on life as a tropical biologist.

Aldo Ramirez, Justin Apodaca and Clara Hansen join the lab as HHMI Summer Scholars. Welcome!

March 2015
Tawni, Grace and Tim give presentation on their INBRE-funded work at the
NM-INBRE annual meeting in Santa Fe.

Tim is awarded the Manasse Scholar award from NMSU

Alexa’s summer research on urban feeder visitation by skunks and raccoons appears as a paper in Urban Ecosystems

February 2015
Marcelo’s paper with Alejo Rico-Guevara on hummingbird bills as daggers appears in Behavioral Ecology, along with a stunning cover photo and selection as the Editor’s Choice. Well done!

Grace and Tim team up to teach a new course in authentic research for undergrads as part of the HHMI program. Ants are da bomb.

January 2015
Erina and Jemima's paper on FoxP2 expression in adult budgerigars is in press at Behavioral Brain Research

Tim is awarded the Donald C. Roush Medal for teaching excellence from NMSU

Liz’s paper with Darlene and Tiffany on the perception of social relationships in monk parakeets is available online in Current Zoology

Vince Ibarra from ECE joins Marcelo in Costa Rica to test nectar smart feeder prototypes.

December 2014
Osceola and Tawni's paper on FoxP2 expression in juvenile budgerigars appears online in Developmental Neurobiology

The final draft of Toft and Wright’s Parrots of the Wild: a Natural History of the World’s Most Captivating Birds is submitted to the UC Press. It’s due out in Fall 2015

September 2014
Aletz starts his new job as a Profesor Investigador at the Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala-CONACyT. Well done Aletz!

Liz garners nice write-ups of her Auk paper on the socioecology of monk parakeets in ScienceNOW and the NiMBIOS website.

August 2014

Alums (now Assistant Professors) Chris Dahlin and Anna Young present posters on their budgerigar work at the Behavioral Ecology Congress in New York.

Tim presents a poster from the collaborative monk parakeet network at the Invasion Genetics Symposium in Asilomar.

July 2014
We wish Esteban well as he heads to Denver to start his PhD at Anschutz Medical Center.

Grace visits collaborator Mike Russello's lab at UBC Okangan to learn genomic approaches to population genetics.

June 2014

Collaborator Jessica Eberhard presents a poster at the Evolution meetings on our study of mitichondrial genomes in parrots.

Liz's paper on socioecology of monk parakeets is accepted by the Auk.

An article by Tim and Mike Russello on conservation and cryptic species in Mealy Parrots appears in Psittascene.

May 2014
Tawni heads to Panama for a summer REU position at STRI.

Liz and family move to Knoxville for her NMBIOS postdoc at UTennesee. We'll miss you Liz!

Brian returns to Puerto Rico for a year of intensive data collection on pair behavior and nesting success in the Puerto Rican Parrot.

April 2014

Tim is nominated for "Most Valuable Professor" by the NMSU Students Athlete Advisory Council.

Congratulations to Brian and Angela for passing their qualifier and comprehensive exams, respectively.

Angela gives a talk to the Mesilla Valley Audubon entitled “Studying Parrot Intelligence Among Anacondas, Mosquitoes and Bulls in the Venezuelan Llanos”. 

Jemima, Tawni, Esteban and Cole all give talks at NMSU's URCAS.

Tim co-teaches a tropical field ecology course in Costa Rica and then joins Marcelo and his team for the first field trials of hummingbird smartfeeders.

March 2014
Esteban Lucero accepts admission offer to PhD program at UC-Denver AMC. Congratulations Esteban!

Jemima gives a talk and Esteban and Angela present posters at the Biosymposium.

Liz Hobson accepts a plum postdoctoral fellowship at the NIMBioS, the National Istitute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. Well done Liz!

February 2014
Marcelo is a visiting professor in the OTS course "Ecología Tropical y Conservación", of which both he and Angela are alumni.

Tim gives outreach talks to two local Rotary clubs and the Mesilla Valley Audubon Society.

Grace successfully passes her qualifying exam in Biology

January 2014
Wright Lab members host 7th graders form the Sierra Science magnet for our annual exercise in the science of animal communication.

The Dahlin et al paper in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology appears in print and the Coffman et al paper in Restoration Ecology appears online.

December 2013
Brian hosts a successful visit by Tim and his co-advisor Scott Carleton to the Puerto Rican Parrot conservation project in Puerto Rico.

November 2013

The Wright Lab makes a strong showing at the Society for Neuroscience meetings in San Diego with two posters by postdocs Whitney and Hara and 3 posters by undergrads Perez, Voyles and Lucero. Marcelo's paper in Biology Letters gets some press coverage at

October 2013
A major project on avian brain evolution that postdocs Erina Hara and Osceola Whitney worked on at Duke University is featured on the NSF website

Tim will be co-teaching a FLiP course on tropical ecology and occupancy modeling with Bill Gould of Stats in Spring 2014. We will spend 10 days in Costa Rica over spring break. Click for more info or talk to one of the instructors.

September 2013
Tim and Marcelo go to Brazil to attend the International Bioacoustics Congress in lovely Pirenopolis. Marcelo gives two talks describing 'firsts' in hummingbird vocal behavior: the first description of open-ended learning and the the first description of heterospecific mimicry. Tim gives a talk on trajectories of call sharing in budgerigars and co-leads a workshop on comparative methods in acoutsic evolution with Jordan Price and Marcelo. Aletz is also there to present his work on yellow-naped amazon dialects.

Two lab papers appear: Dahlin et al on female budgerigar call sharing in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology and Araya-Salas and Wright on open-ended song learning in long-billed hermits in Biology Letters.

Wright Lab alumni continue to distinguish themselves in their new positions. Anna Young is co-PI on an NSF WIDER grant awarded to Otterbein to assess learning in the STEM courses. Chris Dahlin was awarded the highest raise at U Pitt Johnstown in recognition of her contributions to the institution. Last but not least, Aletz Salinas's exceptional research productivity was recognized by CONACyT as he is promoted to Level 1 status in the Sistema Nacional de Investigadores of Mexico.

August 2013
The Wright Lab welcomes new PhD students, Grace Smith Viduarre and Brian Ramos and new HHMI Research Scholar Cole Torbin.

July 2013
Liz and Marcelo present their research results at the Animal Behaviour Society's meetings in Boulder. Tim plays hooky to go canoeing in the Boundary Waters.

June 2013
Tim, Marcelo and collaborators Wei Tang of NMSU ECE and Paulina Gonzalez-Gomez of Chile are awarded an Interdisciplinary Research Grant by the VPR's office to develop RFID smartfeeders for hummingbirds.

Angela conducts fieldwork on parrotlets in Venezuela with support from the Mesilla Valley Audubon Society, the Center for Latin American and Border Studies and a Pimm Field Ecology grant from Biology.

Tim authors an In Focus piece for Animal Behaviour describing exciting work on juvenile stress and vocal learning in song sparrows by Kim Schmidt and colleagues from U. of Western Ontario.

May 2013
Undergraduate Alejandra Galindo visits from Mexico to work on the analysis of hummingbird display variation.

April 2013
Tawni Voyles wins Best Undergraduate Poster Award at the NMSU Biosymposiu.

Liz Hobson successfully defends her PhD thesis. Congratulations Dr. Hobson!

March 2013
Marcelo publishes a note in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology and a popular article on his work on musicality in wren song in Significance Magazine.

Lab alum Anna Young is nominated by Otterbein University for their university-wide best New Teacher Award.

Liz turns in her monster thesis to her committee-next step is the defense.

February 2013

Angela passes her Qual exam!

January 2013
Tim spends two weeks with Marcelo in Costa Rica setting up the study of vocal and visual dialects in the long-billed hermit, and another week assisting Argo Productions film footage of yellow-naped amazons for a documentary on parrot conservation. Marcelo is joined by field assistants Alejandra Galindo and Grace Smith-Viduarre.

December 2012

Marcelo passes his Comps exam!

November 2012
The Wright Lab goes 12 for '12 with publication of Aletz's papers in PlosONE and Liz's paper in Animal Behaviour.

Aletz notches another paper; this one on behavioral flexibility in yellow-naped amazons that will appear in Biological Conservation

October 2012

The Wright lab welcomes new members Dr. Osceola Whitney (postdoc), Tawni Voyles (HHMI Research Scholar) and Dr. Mark Rollag (affiliate scientist).

Our work on vocal learning mechanisms in budgerigars is represented by two posters at the Society for Neuroscience Meeting in New Orleans.

September 2012
The blogger GrrlScientist discusses our work on the Carolina parakeet in a piece in the Guardian.

The Wright Lab is deligjhted to welcome PhD student Angela Medina-Garcia and postdoc Erina Hara to NMSU. See their research descriptions on the People Page. The National Geographic Society awards a grant to study vocal and visual displays in long-billed hermits to Tim, Marcelo and collaborators Paulina Gonzalez-Gomez and Daniel Mennill.

August 2012
A paper by Marcelo Araya-Salas on the musicality of bird song is selected by the executive editor as the featured paper of the month by Animal Behaviour. The paper has received research coverage in ScienceNow and La Nacion.

Anna Young departs for her faculty position at Otterbein University after seven years in the lab. Good luck Anna!

The Wright Lab reloads: welcome to new research technician Patricia Duarte-Hash and undergrad researchers Laura Flores and Jemima Perez.

Papers by Marcelo and Anna (with Dennis Hallford) are accepted by Animal Behaviour and Zoo Biology, respectively.

Felicidades to lab alumni Aletz Salinas-Melgoza, who has been awarded a CONACyT postdoctoral fellowship to study population fragementation and vocal diversity in parrots with Katherine Renton at UNAM.

Liz Hobson, Anna Young, and Tim Wright (for Chris Dahlin) present talks at the Animal Behavior Society Meetings in Albuquerque.

Lab tech extraordinaire Breanne Cordier departs to pursue her dream of becoming a wildlife rehabilitator. We fully expect her to have her own show on Animal Planet within three years.

BRAiN scholar Esteban Lucero is spending the summer conducting research in the lab of Dr. Kristin Artinger at UCDenver Anschutz Medical Center.

May 2012
Wright lab research is featured in a piece in’s Explainer column “Why parrots parrot”.

Our work on the evolutionary relationships of the Carolina parakeet is featured on the NMSU website at

April 2012
Marcelo Araya-Salas is awarded a Student Research Grant from the Animal Behavior Society for his proposal "Understanding the function of coordinated singing behavior in a lekking hummingbird species"

Liz Hobson is an invited speaker in the Symposium on Network Science at the University of Wyoming. Her talk focuses on methods for describing temporal dynamics in social networks, illustrated with data from monk parakeets.

A monster paper by Erin Schirtzinger and many others on the evolution of mitochondrial control region duplications in parrots is accepted for publication by Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. It features the largest phylogeny of parrots to date.

March 2012
Christina Kenny joins the lab on a rotation as an HHMI Science Scholar.

The Wright Lab hosts visiting Masters student Cory Castro from Cal State Fullerton for a two-week trip to record song repertoires in local black-throated sparrows.

March 16 marks a historic two-fer for the Wright Lab! Chris's paper on playbacks of duets and solos the yellow-naped amazon is accepted by Animal Cognition, and Ted's paper on cryptic speciation in the mealy amazon is accepted pending minor revisions by Conservation Genetics.

February 2012

Our paper with Jeremy Kirchman on the evolutionary relationships of the extinct Carolina parakeet is accepted by Auk. Look for it on the cover in April.

January 2012

Postdoc Anna Young has accepted a faculty position in at Otterbein University, where she will teach in their new Zoo Biology program. Well done Anna!

Esteban Lucero joins the lab as an undergraduate BRAiN scholar. Welcome Esteban!

A paper by Leo Joseph with Erin and Tim and others on parrot taxonomy is accepted by Zootaxa.

Tim and family have returned to Las Cruces after a rejuvenating sabbatical visit at UCDavis. Thanks to the Hahn/Ramenofsky/Wingfield labs for their hospitality.

December 2011
Belated congratulations to Dr. Alejandro Salinas-Melgoza, who successfully defended his dissertation and has returned to Mexico to search for postdoc and faculty opportunities.

A paper by Shannon Pease et al. on sex ratios in the based on her HHMI thesis is accepted by the Wilson Journal of Ornithology. Kudos to Peasey and to Aletz for his mentoring on this project.

Tim and Marcelo are awarded an NMSU A&S minigrant to study visual displays in the long-billed hermit in Costa Rica.

October, 2011
Paper by Goncalves da Silva et al in Molecular Ecology (2010) is recognized with a Outstanding Research Publication Award by the USDA National Wildlife Research Center.

A paper by Chris Dahlin on parrot duet syntax is accepted by Ethology Anna Young’s original work “The Password Hypothesis” competed in the Science Dance your PhD contest.
View video here

August, 2011
• Erin Schirtzinger successfully defends her dissertation. Congratulations Dr. Schirtzinger!

• Founding Wright Lab member Chris Dahlin moves Pennsylvania to start her faculty job. Happy trails, Chris.

• Shannon Pease is admitted to vet school at Oregon State. Good luck Peasey.

• Tim and family head to California for a fall semester sabbatical at UC Davis. July
• Liz, Alejandro, Anna and Chris present talks at the Behavior 2011 meetings in Indianapolis. Anna's talk appears in the Allee competition for best student talk.

• Tim starts term as Editor of the journal Animal Behaviour and is elected a fellow of the American Ornithologists Union.

June, 2011

• Darlene John moves to Seattle to begin an exciting postbacc program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

• The Wright Lab welcomes its newest member, Avery Oak Coffman, born to John and Elena on Father's Day, 2011.

• Tim heads to MBL in Woods Hole to collaborate with Stephanie White on vocal learning and gene expression in budgerigars.

• A weighty paper on lifespans in captive parrots by Anna, Liz, Tim and collaborator Laurie Bingaman-Lackey is accepted by Animal Conservation.

May 2011
• Christine Dahlin accepts a faculty job at University of Pittsburgh Johnstown. Congratulations Assistant Professor Dahlin!

• Anna Young successfully defends her PhD and accepts a postdoc position in the Wright Lab. Congratulations Dr. Young!

• John Coffman successfully defends his Masters and moves into a research scientist position on the desert birds project. Congratulations Master Coffman!

April, 2011
• Marcelo Araya passes his Quals and prepares for his first field season studying vocalizations and lekking behavior in the in long-billed hermit at La Selva, Costa Rica.

• Anna Young premieres her dance piece “The Password Hypothesis” at the Spring 2011 Dance Unlimited show. The Science “Dance your PhD competition is next!

• Shanon (Peasey) Pease presents her award-winning poster at the NMSU Undergraduate Research and Creative Arts Symposium.

• Our paper on the systematics of the enigmatic parrot genera Psittacella and Pezoporus coauthored with Leo Joseph and Alicia Toon appears in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. See CSIRO news release “Tiger-parrots show their true evolutionary stripes”.

• Natalie Gomez joins the Wright Lab for a short rotation as an HHMI Scientific Scholar.

March, 2011          
• Chris Dahlin interviews for a faculty position in Biology at U. Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

• Alejandro Salinas and Shannon (Peasey) Pease win Best Graduate Talk and Best Undergraduate Poster awards, respectively, at the 2011 Biosymposium.

• Tim Wright is hosted by the White Lab at UCLA for training in neurobiology methods.

• Darlene John is accepted in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center postbacc program.

• Ted Wenner is selected for a fully-funded PhD position at the University of Tasmania studying the conservation genetics of the Providence petrel.

Jan 2011 
• The Wright Lab hosts 80 7th graders from the Sierra MS science magnet for an exercise on sound analysis of parrot calls.

• Tim Wright, Anna Young and Shannon Pease presented their research results at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology meetings in Salt Lake City. Neither Peasey nor Anna shamed the lab with their first presentations at national meetings.

• Ted Wenner joins the lab for a research internship as part of his MS in Biotechnology. He will investigate cryptic speciation in Amazona farinosa in a project supported by the World Parrot Trust.