Scarlet Macaw Research and Protection

Dr. Chris Vaughan, Adjunct Professor of Wildlife Ecology, UW-Madison, has a long history of wildlife and bird-related research in Costa Rica.  He received his M.S. from the University of Costa Rica-CATIE in 1978 and worked in the Environmental Sciences School at the Universidad Nacional (Costa Rica), where he founded the International Institute for Wildlife Conservation and Management, the first wildlife conservation graduate program in Latin America. Up to now, this program has trained over 200 Latin American scientists at a M.S. level who now work on the cutting edge of conservation work. He has worked there for 28 years in different administrative, research and teaching capacities in Latin America, publishing over 100 scientific articles and 7 books on neotropical wildlife conservation themes.

Dr. Vaughan has conducted research on a Scarlet Macaw population in a human-dominated landscape since 1990.  Recent publications on this research have addressed responses of scarlet macaws to conservation practices, movement and behavior of macaws during the post-fledging period, and ecology and management of natural and artificial macaw nest cavities. There is an on-going interdisciplinary project on scarlet macaw conservation which involves: local human communities, local businesses (especially related to tourism), Carara National Park officials, and scientists (see  Dr. Vaughan also coordinates the Chocolate Biodiversity and Productivity Project, a collaborative research effort between the Milwaukee Public Museum, the University of Wisconsin, and the USDA (see 

This interdisciplinary project is exploring the economic and conservation potential of cacao, the chief ingredient of chocolate.  Cacao grows in the shade, provides habitat for wildlife, and an economic boost to small farmers as a cash crop. Current wildlife studies include work with birds, spiders, lizards and sloths. Other human related projects include analysis and improvement of cacao farm management practices, development of local infrastructure for commercialization and marketing of cocoa products via small grower cooperatives and organizations, and rehabilitation of abandoned cacao.

Dr. Vaughan currently teaches in Madison and in Costa Rica, and advises undergraduate and graduate students interested in the neotropics, especially wildlife and wildlands conservation.  He also is co-editor of the international scientific journal Vida Silvestre Tropical.

For more information, contact

Chris Vaughan, Adjunct Professor
Department of Wildlife Ecology
(608)263-2071 / cvaughan@wisc,edu