Pepperberg, Irene M.

Pepperberg, Irene M. (Maxine)

(1949–  ) animal behaviorist, ornithologist; born in New York City. Although she maintained her early interest in interspecies communication and comparative animal behavior, she chose graduate studies in chemistry and chemical physics. She taught and performed research in chemistry at Harvard (1971–76), then relocated to Purdue University (1977–84), where she began her extensive studies of avian communication in the African grey parrot. She became a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Northwestern University (1984–91), then joined the University of Arizona as an assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology (1991). She made major contributions to studies of parrot communication, speech physiology, cognition, and tool use, and championed the idea that these birds' speech skills are not merely imitative, but resemble the communication ability of chimpanzees who are trained to use sign language and computers.