4/21/2014 Peter Durantine

For Hope, Connect Brain and Heart, Goodall Tells F&M Audience

Primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall brought the voice of the chimpanzee to Franklin & Marshall College's packed Mayser Gymnasium on April 18, offering an imitation of sounds she's heard for more than half a century in east Africa.

After voicing the deep, monosyllabic sounds of the primate language, the 80-year-old scientist introduced herself to the audience of 2,700 people: "Hello, this is me. This is Jane."

Goodall's studies of chimpanzees in their natural habitats in the African nation of Tanzania revolutionized primate research, while her 13 books, including her most recent, "Sowing the Seeds of Hope," have raised the critical need for conservation awareness and efforts worldwide.

Watch her talk
  • During her visit to Franklin & Marshall College, primatologist Jane Goodall met with students, staff and faculty, including F&M Assistant Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Lonsdorf, who met Goodall as a doctoral student while she was conducting research in Tanzania's Gombe Stream National Park for her dissertation. (Photo by Melissa Hess) 

The anthropologist and ethologist spoke for 90 minutes about a love for animals that started when she was a child, her supportive mother who helped her realize her life's dream of moving to Africa to live with animals, and her intensive efforts to address the threats facing the world's wildlife and the environment.

"We are at the moment destroying the planet," Goodall said, blaming it on humanity's focus on money and self-interest. "There seems to be this disconnect between the human brain and human heart."

From plants to animals to humans, the planet's life is interconnected, said Goodall, who established such a close relationship with chimpanzees that to this day she is the only human to have been accepted into chimpanzee society.

Deforestation, poaching, unethical medical experiments, genetically modified foods, pollution and war have wrought dangers to the health of humans as well as animals, said Goodall, a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

"We have compromised the future of young people," Goodall said. "Is there no hope? I don’t believe that. The human brain is a great source of hope as long as we use it in conjunction with the human heart."

Goodall sees hope in the indomitable human spirit willing to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles, and youth-led community action programs such as Roots & Shoots, started by Goodall in Tanzania in 1991. The change-making organization is now in more than 130 countries.

While at F&M, Goodall signed copies of her book, "Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants," which she co-wrote with Gayle Hudson. In her book, she writes, "There would be no chimpanzees without plants -- nor human beings, either."

As F&M community members stood in the long line that snaked through Mayser Gymnasium to where Goodall was signing books, some of the students talked about the primatologist's lecture.

"I think I was ultimately inspired by her passion," said Amy Bianco, a junior film and media studies major.

"I think it was fascinating to see someone I've heard about since I was a little girl," said Delia Pepper, a sophomore English and psychology major.

Goodall began her work with chimpanzees at Gombe Stream National Park in 1960, after making the revolutionary observation that chimpanzees can make tools, until then thought to be only a human trait. That laid 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.

At the time of her chimpanzee-tool-making observation, some scientists Goodall respected doubted the validity of her research and laughed at her method to understand animal behavior, which the primatologist told F&M's students was a lesson for her and for them.

"Don't let people laugh you out of what you think is true," Goodall said. "We have so much to discover."

Goodall's intimate approach began with calling the chimpanzees by name rather than assigning them numbers. 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.

During her visit to F&M, Goodall met 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.

One of the messages Goodall left with the F&M audience was the importance a parent's support can have on your dream, like her mother, Margaret Myfanwe Joseph, a novelist who wrote under the name Vanne Morris-Goodall, had on hers.

"Everyone said, 'Jane, dream about something you can achieve; forget Africa,' except my mother. She believed in me," Goodall said. "That's the message I take around the world."

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