It all began with the adoption of a Jardine’s parrot in the mid-1990s.

Ursula Heise, UCLA English professor and the Marcia H. Howard Chair in Literary Studies, author and leader in the growing study of environmental humanities, was surprised by the animal’s intelligence and ability to communicate. She began observing birds and other animals in nature and thinking about their survival through the lens of her literary expertise.

Twenty years later, she shares a home with three green-cheeked Amazon parrots. And she has just written “Imagining Extinction” — a book that explores extinction, endangered species and wildlife conservation through the lens of culture and storytelling, and reveals much about human nature as well. This Q&A is adapted from a longer conversation between Heise and David Colgan of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

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