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Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Completing the Cycle
In the field I process fecal samples collected from Gombe chimpanzees. My role in the Gombe Ecosystem Health Project is to collect the samples, using non-invasive methods, and use field equipment to extract the hormones. I package the extracted hormones and ship them to endocrinologist Rachel Santymire at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Three weeks ago I boarded a plane to come to Chicago to participate in Lincoln Park Zoo’s Ecosystem Health Training Program. Part of the program focused on endocrinology taught by Rachel. I found this course very interesting. I now know what happens to the sample after I collect it from the chimpanzee and why it’s important to follow the precise extraction methods. It is very important to make sure all of the samples are extracted using the same methods so that we can compare hormone levels between chimpanzees.
After I collect the sample, extract the hormone and send the hormone to Lincoln Park Zoo, Rachel runs a hormone assay in the endocrinology lab to check the amount of stress hormone in the individual at the time of sample collection. Her assay uses color to tell us how much hormone is in the sample. The lighter blue the color, the more stress hormone is in the sample. Thus, if the sample is very light blue (almost clear), this is an indicator that the chimpanzee is under a lot of stress.
Since there could be a correlation between stress and the health of the animal, we can compare our stress analysis to our health checksheet data [recorded observations of chimpanzee health] to help us better understand this relationship. Now, that I understand the steps to processing hormones from beginning to end, I feel a new sense of pride in my work. My heart is in this!
Another amazing part of this trip was when I watched the keeper’s training session with Kwan, one of Lincoln Park Zoo’s silverback gorillas. Kwan is a very large gorilla, and it was amazing to see how he worked with his caregivers to perform behaviors that help in his daily upkeep. I am very grateful to the keepers for donating their time to allow me to see the impressive relationship that they have with the zoo animals.
Juma Baanyiqwa is a field officer with the Gombe Ecosystem Health Project.
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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