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Monday, March 15, 2010
Hello From Gombe!
Though it’s a bit belated, I wanted to introduce myself here on the Conservation Field Diaries. After graduating college this past June, I was awarded a U.S. Student Fulbright grant for a proposal to advance chimpanzee health-monitoring measures. I’ll be doing a number of things here at Gombe but my primary project studies the interaction of health and stress in wild chimpanzees. Specifically, I’ll be collecting fecal samples to extracting hormone measures.
I started working with Drs. Dominic Travis and Elizabeth Lonsdorf on chimpanzee health research at Gombe Stream National Park while attending the University of Chicago for my undergraduate degree in biology. After all this time, it’s wonderful to finally to get to know the chimpanzees I’ve written up in the records I translated!
Although I’ve been here a few months now, I’m still working on being able to identify each individual. Those with more distinctive personalities are definitely easier for me. For instance, I can identify Frodo—who has decided I’m small enough to beat up easily—immediately and try to keep an eye on him at all times.
It’s still strange thinking that this will be my home until October. Thankfully I know just enough Swahili to be able to communicate well with the park staff, especially my field assistant, Amri. It also helps that Amri and I share a good sense of humor when we run into problems. The days are long and the work hard, but in my mind, there’s no better job than one that requires running around on the mountain rift. Since I was off for the month of February, I can’t wait until next week when I can get back into forest!
Gombe Field Diaries
Lincoln Park Zoo is partnering with the Jane Goodall Institute to study and conserve chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, the site of Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research. Our Gombe field diaries feature updates as scientists monitor chimpanzee health, study ape behavior and experience life in Gombe.
As director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lonsdorf leads Lincoln Park Zoo efforts in Gombe National Park.
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.
An endocrinologist in the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Santymire studies stress and reproduction in Gombe's chipmanzees.
A graduate student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, Matt is studying how levels of play in Gombe¹s chimpanzees influence stress, development and reproductive success.
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