The Lost Rainforest of Crystal Mountain, Madagascar
Program Presenter: Dr. Patricia Wright, Stony Brook University
Dr. Wright is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She has served as the Executive Director for the Institute for the Conservation of Tropical Environments (ICTE) since 1992 and founded the Centre ValBio Research station in Madagascar in 2002. Dr. Wright has studied behavioral ecology of non-human primates in South America, Asia, and Madagascar. Her research interests include conservation biology, primate behavior and ecology, the evolution of tropical biodiversity, biodiversity conservation, climate change in the tropics and conservation genetics.
In 1986, while on an exploratory expedition to Madagascar, Dr. Wright and colleagues discovered a new species of lemur, the golden bamboo lemur (Hapalemur aureus). When this rain forest—and the future of this new species—were threatened by timber exploitation, Dr. Wright’s attention turned to conservation. She spearheaded an integrated conservation and development project at Ranomafana that focused on the protection and conservation of endemic flora and fauna as well as rural development, education, and promotion of health services in the park’s peripheral zone. In 1991, the Ranomafana National Park was inaugurated. Dr. Wright coordinated the building of the park infrastructure and management, ecotourism development, biodiversity research and monitoring, economic development, and health and education within the peripheral zone villages. In 1997, the park management was handed over to the Malagasy Park Service. Since 1997, Dr. Wright has continued to be actively involved in biodiversity research and exploration in Madagascar. She became a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and in 1995 she was awarded three medals of honor from Madagascar: “Chevalier d’Ordre National,” “Officier d’Ordre National,” and the “Commandeur.” From 2000-2010, she was a member of the Committee for Research and Exploration of National Geographic Society. She is an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Fellow and was elected to the American Philosophical Society, a prestigious society founded by Ben Franklin. She has received numerous honorary degrees and awards including “The Hauptman-Woodward Pioneer in Science Award” (2007), the Distinguished Primatologists award (2008), and the Indianapolis Prize for Animal Conservation, considered the “Nobel Prize” for conservation (2014).
Dr. Wright has co-authored five books including her two autobiographies: High Moon over the Amazon: my quest to understand the monkeys of the night and For the Love of Lemurs: my life in the wilds of Madagascar. She has published over 170 scientific papers. Her work has been featured in full-length documentary films such as “Me and Isaac Newton,” directed by Michael Apted, “The Golden Bamboo Lemur,” for NHK, Japan and “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” a 3D IMAX film narrated by Morgan Freeman and released in theaters worldwide. Wright has been featured in Anthony Bourdain’s CNN TV show “Parts Unknown” and ABC Nightline news with Alex Marquardt.
Dr. Wright has spearheaded the Centre ValBio, an award-winning “green, sustainable” research station on the edge of the rainforest with molecular and infectious disease laboratories, high speed internet and modern facilities. Centre ValBio hosts programs in Biodiversity Research, Environmental Arts, Village education, health, and reforestation.