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On Campus

July 27, 2000 - VOL. 27, NO. 17


greek columnspacerArete: Paige Warren

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Editor's note: Arete is an ancient Greek word for virtue, describing the quest for individual excellence. In this regular feature of On Campus, the University salutes its graduate students — whose considerable contributions to the academy and larger community are truly virtuious. These features will be framed and posted in the lobby of the Office of Graduate Studies, Main 101.

Pursuing an obscure species of cowbird that lives in Texas and the American Southwest, Paige Warren, UT Austin doctoral candidate and assistant instructor, found herself teaching a new group of students.

To gain access to research sites, she had to explain her work to private landowners, teaching them not only about her project but also about related issues in science and conservation.

Cowbirds do not build their own nests or raise their own offspring but, instead, lay their eggs in the nests of other species. Most research has been done on one species of the cowbird, Warren said, but there are four others, all parasitic. Warren has received numerous grants and fellowships, including a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, to study the Bronzed Cowbird.

Her work provides new information on this species, focusing on its distribution and population density in the Unites States as well as its wintering behavior in this country and in Mexico.

One of the most critical sites to Warren's research also was one of the most challenging in terms of gaining access, she explained. In this community, the economy is changing from dependence on ranching and railroads to a greater emphasis on nature tourism.

"Landowners are understandably concerned about losing their livelihoods and traditional lifestyle to modern movements," she said. "I made my expertise available to those who wanted to develop nature tourism on their property." Warren gained local residents' trust by helping them request grants for community development projects and leading public forums on the roles of scientific research and nature tourism.

"Showing people how to handle a live bird and then watching their faces as they held their first living bird was more rewarding sometimes than actually collecting my own data," she said.


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August 2, 2000
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