Jane Goodall visits campus, delivers lecture on life story, hopes for future

By Abigail Quint, Editor in Chief ||
With Reporting By Steven Viera, News Editor ||

Jane Goodall, primatologist, came to F&M and talked to a sold-out crowd in Mayser Gymnasium last Friday. She discussed her conservation efforts. Photo by Krissy Montville ’14

Dr. Jane Goodall, renowned anthropologist, primatologist, and author, spoke on her life experiences, her travels, and her conservation work last Friday at a sold-out Mayser Gymnasium.

Elizabeth Lonsdorf, professor of psychology, worked at the Gombe Stream National Park with Goodall and was instrumental in bringing her to campus. Lonsdorf introduced Goodall and spoke of her own experience meeting Goodall as an undergraduate.

Goodall shared part of her story with the crowd in Mayser, starting with tales of her exploration of nature in her native England. She spoke very highly of her mother, praising her for her commitment to encouraging curiosity. When Goodall needed a chaperone during her first excursion to Gombe Stream National Park, her mother volunteered.

During first few months at Gombe Stream National Park, a chimpanzee she named David Greybeard provided her with her first breakthrough. David took a twig, stripped off the leaves, and used the branch as a tool to hunt for termites. Evidence of animals beyond humans using tools was groundbreaking.

After that discovery, her mentor Louis Leakey secured a place for Goodall work on her graduate studies at Cambridge University, despite the fact that Goodall did not attend undergraduate school. After earning her doctorate, Goodall returned to Gombe Stream National Park, where she was filmed and photographed for National Geographic Magazine. She took extensive notes on the movements, habits, and relationships of the chimpanzees in the park, even forming personal relationships with the chimpanzees.

Her work demonstrated the “human” nature of the chimpanzees, proving chimps were smart, capable of love, and capable of hate.  The research and data collection changed assumptions about the nature of animals, and empathized how “human” like some animals could be.

In 1986, Goodall left Gombe to pursue conservationism.  She now travels around the world for the better part of each year, speaking at events and encouraging the crowds to consider the impact industrialization, deforestation, mass consumption of meat, animal testing, and climate change.

Goodall shares her hope for the future, citing the intelligence of humans and the spirit of young people.  Her organization, Roots & Shoots, aims to inspire young people to make changes in their communities.  The organization’s website states that the goal of Roots & Shoots is “to place the power and responsibility for creating community-based solutions to big challenges in the hands of the young people.”

Sarah Dawson, professor and director of the Wohlsen Center for Sustainable Environment, worked to bring Goodall to campus for many years.  “We have been working to get Jane visit Franklin & Marshall since I began here in 2009,” she said. “Her visit is one of the most important accomplishments of my time here.  As a wildlife biologist, this is a dream come true for me, and I’m so happy that our community will get to hear her message,” Dawson said.

Dawson also looked to learn from the lecture, as Goodall’s work is groundbreaking. She believes that students greatly benefited from the talk. “Jane is the world’s most preeminent wildlife biologist and conservation advocate.  Her work with chimpanzees at Gombe redefined what it meant to be human – and put us in our place within the context of the greater web of life.   What we all learn in biology and psychology and animal behavior and conservation classes was greatly influenced by her time in the field,” Dawson said.

In a press conference, Goodall described the message she hoped to impart to members of the F&M community in her lecture.

“Every single day, we each make an impact on the planet,” Goodall said. “It’s about choosing the little things.”

Junior Abigail Quint is the Editor in Chief. Her email is aquint@fandm.edu.

Sophomore Steven Viera is the News Editor. His email is sviera@fandm.edu.

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