Notes of Note

Goodall’s field observations come to Duke
June 1, 2011
 
New home for chimp observations: Jane Goodall and Duke’s Anne Pusey with decades of research collected at Gombe, Tanzania.

New home for chimp observations: Jane Goodall and Duke’s Anne Pusey with decades of research collected at Gombe, Tanzania.
Megan Morr

Jane Goodall began observing chimpanzees in Tanzania in 1960, taking meticulous notes and typing them up at night. Now, more than fifty years later, her comprehensive documentation of chimpanzee social organization and behavior, and that of students and researchers who followed her to her camp near Gombe Stream, resides at Duke.

The Jane Goodall Institute Research Center houses twenty filing cabinets full of documents dating back to Goodall’s first observations at Gombe, as well as written reports in English and Swahili, data summaries known as “check-sheets,” and hand-drawn maps, videotapes, and photographs that are currently being processed. Anne Pusey, chair of the department of evolutionary anthropology at Duke, is leading the project; she began working with Goodall in Africa in 1970. The collection continues to receive new data from the study at Gombe on a regular basis in paper and digital forms.

Goodall visited campus to announce the acquisition and gave a speech in which she reviewed her career. She was twenty-six when she first arrived in Tanzania and had little training and no fixed methodology, but she took detailed notes of everything she observed chimpanzees doing. Simply by watching carefully, Goodall revolutionized scientific understanding of chimpanzees: They make and use tools. They mate promiscuously but have lifelong bonds with their mothers. They laugh and play. They have shifting political alliances and wage violent battles over territory. They hunt monkeys and bush pigs in organized groups and eat their meat.

The study at Gombe has been ongoing since Goodall began it, offering researchers a unique longitudinal look at chimpanzee families and other social bonds.

Watch video from Goodall's visit.