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Wildlife Biology senior Adam Miller awarded Fulbright Fellowship to study and teach in Indonesia

May 6, 2013

Colorado State University wildlife biology senior Adam Miller has been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship to travel abroad to Indonesia for one year where he will teach English and conduct his own wildlife conservation research and outreach.

Adam MillerLifelong passion

Miller is excited to have the opportunity to pursue his lifelong passion for studying and conserving Lorikeets and other exotic bird species – which are at risk due to deforestation and wildlife trade.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program and operates in more than 155 countries worldwide. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Environmental outreach

While Miller’s main goal in Indonesia is to work on his environmental outreach, he selected the teaching fellowship track so that he could become better immersed in the community and make a bigger impact with his research and outreach. While in Indonesia, Miller hopes to examine the impacts of two main threats to wild bird populations: deforestation and domestic wildlife trade. 

Palm oil has become a popular alternative to more expensive oils used in food manufacturing, but its production is resulting in critical loss of rainforests around the world. Deforestation and habitat loss due to palm oil production is prevalent in Indonesia and current production is expected to double by the year 2020.  This loss of habitat could pose a critical threat to many endemic species that flourish in the island nation.

Rainbow Lorikeet Domestic wildlife trading

According to Miller, another important but less documented conservation issue threatening birds in Indonesia is domestic wildlife trading.

“Exotic birds are coveted as status symbols by Indonesians in the western half of the country, and are being trapped and sold by impoverished citizens on the eastern half of the country,” said Miller. “No one seems to know the true impact this is having on native species, so I am hoping to help document the effects of domestic wildlife trade on the bird populations.”

Miller believes that his research could aid community-based conservation and education initiatives that can play an important role in stemming the problem, and hopes to partner with the Indonesian Parrot Project’s Conservation Awareness Pride program.

Making a difference

“I hope I can make a difference and help conserve the amazing biodiversity in Indonesia,” said Miller.

Originally from St. Louis, Mo., Miller has had a strong interest in birds and has dreamed of traveling to Indonesia since he was less than 10 years old. Growing up, Miller hand-fed baby birds in a local pet shop in his hometown. And one day, a particular bird came in the store that caught his attention - the Lorikeet.

The Lorikeet is a brightly colored Indonesian parrot that drinks nectar and eats fruit instead of seeds.  Miller quickly became fascinated by the bird, and began researching the species. By the age of 12, he was a young member of the American Lorikeet Society and had begun following the Indonesian Parrot Project. He hand-raised baby lorikeets, built aviaries in his back yard with his father, and continued to research the species and its country of origin throughout middle and high school.

Exceptional research experience

While he received some pressure by high-school counselors and peers to choose a more traditional business degree path in his home state, Miller knew he wanted a career with animals and headed west to CSU. Since his freshman year, Miller has gained exceptional undergraduate research experience partnering with a variety of graduate students, scientists and professors from CSU’s Warner College of Natural Resources.

After getting an internship with the Center for Collaborative Conservation (CCC), Miller’s passion for birds was noticed by Robin Reid, Director of the CCC, who connected him to Liba Pejchar. Pejchar is an assistant professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and a conservation biologist with a focus on bird conservation.  

Pejchar has worked closely with Miller for the past three years as his academic and research project advisor, and describes him as one of the most productive, proactive, and personable students she has ever worked with.

Amazing student and researcher

“Adam is an amazing student and researcher who works hard to collect and analyze his own data and takes full advantage of every opportunity to get hands-on experience in the field,” said Pejchar. “I am so excited for him to have this experience in Indonesia and I am confident he will go on to make a significant contribution to the conservation and wildlife biology community.”

Among Miller’s many achievements in the past four years, he has: conducted research in Hawaii on the role of native and non-native bees in forest restoration and won best undergraduate presentation for his talk on this project at the Front Range Student Ecology Symposium, spent a semester abroad studying cane toads in Australia, was published in the Journal of Undergraduate Research, presented at the American Lorikeet Society’s annual conference, and is finishing his honors thesis on the effects of residential development on bird communities in Colorado.

Graduating with honors

Miller is set to graduate with honors May 2013 with a Bachelor of Science degree in wildlife biology from CSU’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology and will leave for Indonesia in August for the one-year Fellowship. After his year in Indonesia, Miller hopes to earn a graduate degree with the possibility of becoming a wildlife conservation researcher or professor.