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Primatologist and Conservationist Jane Goodall to Give Talk at F&M April 18

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    • Primatologist and Conservationist Jane Goodall, pictured with Gombe chimpanzee Freud, will give a talk Friday, April 18 at Franklin & Marshall College. (Photo by Michael Neugebauer courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute)

Jane Goodall, whose landmark studies of wild chimpanzees in what is today Tanzania revolutionized primate research and conservation efforts worldwide, will discuss threats facing chimpanzees and other environmental crises and her reasons for hope at 7 p.m. Friday, April 18, in Mayser Gymnasium at Franklin & Marshall College.

In a lecture titled "Sowing the Seeds of Hope," Goodall, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, will discuss international efforts to solve these challenges. The audience will be given the opportunity to ask questions after the talk, and Goodall will participate in a book signing.

"Jane is the world's preeminent wildlife biologist and conservation advocate," said Sarah Dawson, director of the Wohlsen Center for the Sustainable Environment and event organizer. "Her work with chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream National Park redefined what it meant to be human -- and put us in our place within the context of the greater web of life."

Goodall, who turned 80 on April 3, began her work with chimpanzees at Gombe in 1960, laying the foundation of future primatological research and conservation efforts that redefined the relationship between humans and animals. The Jane Goodall Institute, established in 1977, continues Goodall's pioneering research on chimpanzee behavior and is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats.

"Her messages of hope and peace let us aspire toward creating a better world for all living things -- human and nonhuman alike," Dawson said. "I hope that everyone who hears her leaves the talk feeling a sense of responsibility to the planet and the desire to contribute to making a sustainable society."

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  • Primatologist Jane Goodall and F&M Assistant Professor of Psychogy Elizabeth Lonsdorf at a research station in Gombe National Park in Tanzania. (Photo Courtesy of Science Museum of Minnesota)

Goodall is known for her intimate approach, which began with calling the chimpanzees by name rather than assigning them numbers, and continued with unprecedented acceptance into chimpanzee colonies. That research was the basis for work about primate mother and infant relationships, including a recently published study led by F&M Assistant Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Lonsdorf. See Full Study

During her visit to F&M, Goodall will meet with students, staff and faculty, including Lonsdorf, who met Goodall as a doctoral student while she was conducting research in Gombe for her dissertation. Lonsdorf worked under Anne Pusey, who Goodall selected as curator of her research data that was then housed at the University of Minnesota. At the time, Lonsdorf was studying tool-use development in wild baby chimps.

"Because I was working at Gombe and on Jane's data, I got to know Jane well," she said, noting that the two worked together on an IMAX film: "Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees."

"The project we collaborated on recently gets back to some of Jane's original research motivations, looking at mother-infant relationships," Lonsdorf said. "She began that data set in 1974 and it continues to this day."

Lonsdorf approached Goodall about working with that data set about six years ago. Now, along with a colleague from George Washington University, Lonsdorf is designing and populating a database of those mother-infant behavioral records, which will allow her to understand infant primate behavioral development in more depth and detail than ever before.

"The research article is from that data set, looking at the very earliest social interaction between little boy chimps and little girl chimps and finding very big differences," Lonsdorf said. "Chimps are great models for this research because they don't have socially defined gender roles like humans do. Nobody is handing the girls dolls and the boys trucks at a very early age."

Goodall's research has paved the way for primate research that continues to evolve with new technologies, Lonsdorf said.

"A common misconception is that after 50 years of research at Gombe, there isn't anything left to know," Lonsdorf said. "But the questions consistently change and the new technologies allow us to answer new questions. We can now do genetic analysis from fecal matter, for example, to actually determine who the fathers are of the chimpanzees born at Gombe. Gombe continues to churn out consistent new discoveries."

Hearing Goodall speak about her work is an unusual and rewarding experience, Lonsdorf said.

"One of Jane's great gifts it talking about her research and the chimpanzees in a way that makes people feel that they know them," Lonsdorf said. "She was one of first field researchers to give animals names instead of numbers, and so she really treats them as individuals.

"For those who have not heard someone talk about wild animals in this manner, it provides a real sense of wonder about the natural world and a sense of astonishment for what this woman has accomplished. I hope that people leave this talk having thought about their place in the world and how they can make it better."

Today, the Goodall Institute is widely recognized for conservation and development programs in Africa, as well as for its global environmental and humanitarian youth program, Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots, which Goodall founded with a group of Tanzanian students in 1991. Roots & Shoots serves hundreds of thousands of students in 130 countries.

Goodall now travels an average 300 days per year to speak about her research and conservation efforts. She has received numerous honors, including the French Legion of Honor, the Medal of Tanzania, and Japan's prestigious Kyoto Prize. In 2002, she was appointed to serve as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, and in 2003, she was named a Dame of the British Empire. 

The event is free and open to the public but tickets are required. Tickets will be available through the Roschel Box Office for those with F&M identification from noon to 6 p.m. on April 9. The remaining tickets will be available to the general public from noon to 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 10. Individuals may get up to four tickets each at the Rochel Box Office or online. Books will be available for purchase after the event.