Mario Cohn-Haft

“To keep myself available, I lived at home, waited tables—and sang in a band. No, really! I have a good ear for music, in fact, I’d considered doing a music major. The singing, though, is not as far off from my current work as you might think ...My ear for music has really helped me in working with the bird songs, and learning to recognize and imitate them, which is a major part of any field research on birds.”

Though Mario was only working to support himself until the prized assignment at INPA came through, ironically, when he was finally cleared he couldn’t actually leave right away—because his band had commitments to play and he couldn’t back out of them!

But once he got to INPA, his six-month assignment only whetted his appetite. To continue working in the Amazon, he started a master’s program at Tulane University, with a professor who had moved to Tulane from Dartmouth. His master’s research project was a bird diet study, where he’d have to examine the contents of bird’s stomachs to determine what they had been eating. “So, me, a bird guy, had to learn to identify all these different insects by looking at half-digested pieces of them!” He pauses. “I learned to do it, but, well...”

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