At UC Davis I worked with Dr. Jim Millam and my thesis focused on meal patterning of captive Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica), preference and motivation for different food forms, the use of enrichment devices as surrogate food manipulation items, and the welfare implications of my findings.  One of the most exciting results that came from this research was that parrots were highly motivated to access larger pellets that resembled their natural food items (palm nuts) in shape and size.  They spent more time manipulating these larger pellets with their beak and feet and in the absence of the large pellets they were motivated to access similarly shaped wooden cubes.  This suggests that captive Amazons have an appetite for physical manipulation that is not met by current industry-standard pellet sizes.  To learn more about this research, see the publications below or on my publications page.

Hmm but I thought you were interested in conservation ecology?
It was my work experience after I received my Master’s degree that really changed my perspectives and helped to shape my research interests; this explains why there is not a linear connection between my Master’s thesis work and my PhD research.  I am still very interested in questions about behavior, though they are not the focus of my current research projects.

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Publications

2011

Preference and motivation for different diet forms and their effect on motivation for a foraging enrichment in captive Orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica)

2010

Over-sized pellets naturalize foraging time of captive Orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica)

You can also read a popular article about my graduate work in Bird Talk magazine.