Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

Origin Stories Episode 04: How to Document a Society

This episode of Origin Stories is about what it takes to document the daily lives of chimpanzees, what we’ve learned, and how to handle all the data that’s been collected during the longest running study of any animal in the wild.

In the 55 years since Louis Leakey sent Jane Goodall to the Gombe forest to study chimpanzees, we’ve learned a lot about the lives and behavior of these wonderful animals. This is thanks to the work of around 100 researchers and students and at least 50-70 Tanzanian field assistants who’ve spent their days watching the chimps and writing everything down.

PhD candidate Emily Boehm just returned from 8 months at Gombe, where she studied the sexual behavior of female chimpanzees. She tells us what it’s like to spend her days following chimps and collecting data on their behavior.

Immigrant female chimpanzees Chema and Rumumba, engaging in some quality, though rare, bonding time. Photo courtesy of gombechimpanzees.org. Immigrant female chimpanzees Chema and Rumumba, engaging in some quality, though rare, bonding time. Photo courtesy of gombechimpanzees.org.

Anne Pusey, a Leakey Foundation grantee and director of the Jane Goodall Institute Research Center at Duke University, shares the story of the evolution of data collection at Gombe. She also tells us about the origins of the Gombe Chimpanzee Database Project, which archives and organizes this invaluable scientific resource, making it available for researchers to use to answer new questions about chimpanzee behavior.

Field notes in Kiswahili from the archive. Courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute Research Center. Field notes in Kiswahili from the archive. Courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute Research Center.

Thanks to Anne Pusey, Emily Boehm, Joseph Feldblum and Kara Walker from Duke University. You can learn more about the Gombe Chimpanzee Project on their website.

Jane Goodall and Anne Pusey with decades of research data. Photo by Megan Morr. Duke University Press Office. Jane Goodall and Anne Pusey with decades of research data. Photo by Megan Morr. Duke University Press Office.

Since 1968, The Leakey Foundation has awarded 13 grants to Jane Goodall and over 20 grants to other researchers studying chimpanzees and baboons at Gombe. We continue to support primatology research at Gombe and at other sites around the world. 

Origin Stories is made possible by support from Wells Fargo Bank. Transcripts are provided by Adept Word Management.



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