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Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Habari ya asabuhi (Good morning!)
When you are doing research on chimpanzees, you spend your time following them around on foot at a safe distance, taking data on whatever particular aspect you are studying. Sometimes, however, it's quite difficult to find and/or stay with chimpanzees, so we often follow them until they go to bed at night and come back the next morning before they wake up.
Chimpanzees build a nest up in the trees each night in which to sleep. Therefore, we “nest” them at about 6–7 p.m. and “unnest” them between 6–7 in the morning. This morning, I went out at the crack of dawn with my graduate student, Matt Heintz of the University of Chicago, to unnest one of my favorite chimpanzees, Gaia, and her 1-year-old son, Google.
Gaia is my absolute favorite chimpanzee—I have known her since she was little, and it's amazing to watch her be a mother now herself. We reached her nest before she woke up and waited in the still-dark forest for dawn to break. It’s a magical time to be in the forest: it's quiet, peaceful and dimly lit before everything wakes up.
Matt is studying mother-infant interactions and chimpanzee play, so I was able to observe his data collection firsthand and discuss his questions and ideas with him. Gaia took it easy on us—she had a very long breakfast of palm nuts and figs (for about two hours!) before grooming her little son and then taking a lengthy nap. What a life!
It's July 4th—our independence day—so we plan on celebrating by watching one of Gombe's amazing sunsets and getting some good rest ourselves....
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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