Lessons From the Lemur Lady

As a biology major at Luther, one of the requirements is to attend 12 science related “colloquiums." These colloquiums are essentially lectures by guest scientists who discuss their background and/or life story and present their research findings.

These colloquiums are excellent opportunities to hear first-hand from scientists who are doing cutting-edge research. However, in all honesty these lectures can be quite painful to experience. Whether it is the technical nature of someone’s research, or the presentation skills of the presenter, there are often colloquiums that take all of my willpower to not fall asleep.

Not the colloquium this week.

This past Tuesday, as part of both the Biology Department’s Colloquium series and the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program, Luther College hosted Patricia Wright, a primatologist and professor of anthropology at the State University of New York.

While my affinity for conservation biology definitely was a factor in my experience listening to Ms. Wright, whose lecture was titled “Girl Power: Ladies Lead in the Lemurs of Madagascar,” I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Ms. Wright talk about both her life, research, and accomplishments.

From discovering both a lemur species thought to be extinct and an entirely new species, to helping found the Ranomafana National Park in Madagascar, Ms. Wright has accomplished quite a lot. Yet her presentation was not elitist, like many accomplished academics often are. She was a genuine person with a passion for doing real, tangible good work in the world.

Here are a few lessons I gained from listening to the “Lemur Lady”:

  1. It’s never too late to follow your dreams
    1. I know this is incredibly cliche, but hey, this lady went from life as a 1960s housewife to researching in the Madagascar forests and discovering an entirely new lemur species.
  2. Determination and collaboration are a good combination
    1. Tenacity pays off. When Ms. Wright saw that the forests were being cut down for timber, she talked to top Madagascar officials and they told her that they needed money to found a national park. And so, through collaboration with Duke University, the local people, and the Madagascar government, she helped found the Ranomafana National Park.
  3. Passion is key to success in your career
    1. Ms. Wright absolutely loved primates. When she talked about her research, you could feel the love and respect and curiosity pour out from her. I can only hope that I find a career driven by the same passions.
View from Valders 206 of the lecture

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