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Patricia Wright

MacArthur Fellow, Madagascar Conservationist, SUNY Stony Brook

Patricia Wright

Dr. Wright is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Dr. Wright 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 primate behavior and ecology, female dominance, male parenting, 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. Patricia Wright 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, 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. Dr. Wright became a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow, and in 1995 she was awarded the "Chevalier d'Ordre National" (National Medal of Honor of Madagascar) from the President of Madagascar.  In 2004 she received the “Officier d’Ordre National) and in 2012 she received the Commandeur medal of honor, the highest honor. In 2000, she became a member of the Committee for Research and Exploration of National Geographic Society. She is a AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Sciences) Fellow.

 Dr. Wright’s research in Madagascar has concentrated on a long-term behavioral and demographic study of the Milne-Edward's sifaka (Propithecus  edwardsi) which now spans more than 30 years of continuous research. and the brown mouse lemur genome and behavior project that began in 2000. Her research focuses on the evolution of behavior and the effect of parasites, predation, aging and environmental stress on lemur populations.

Dr. Wright has co-authored three books (Tarsiers: Past, Present and Future; Rutgers University Press; Madagascar and the Comoros, Lonely Planet Press and “Madagascar: Forest of our Ancestors”).  Her autobiography is published in two volumes, “High Moon over the Amazon: my quest to understand the monkeys of the night” (2013) and “For the Love of Lemurs: my life in the wilds of Madagascar” (2014).  She has published over a hundred fifty 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 in “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar” a 3D IMAX film narrated by Morgan Freeman and released in theaters worldwide in 2014.

Wright has been featured in ABC Nightline News and Anthony Bourdain’s CNN TV show “ Parts Unknown”. 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). 

She 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. 

Summit Sessions

Species & Spaces