Chimpanzees in Context


Altruism & Cooperation Session Host

Frans de Waal, Ph.D.  – CH Candler Professor of Primate Behavior, Emory University
de Waal is renowned for his knowledge of the social behavior of chimpanzees, in particular their responses to unfairness and their ability to cooperate. His research has focused on the topics of cultural learning, behavioral economics, empathy, and communication in chimpanzees, bonobos, macaques, & capuchin monkeys. He has authored over 200 books and peer-reviewed articles. In his first book, Chimpanzee Politics, he revealed the social dynamics that govern chimpanzee society and in his most recent book, The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates, he discussed the evolutionary origins of morality. de Waal is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Utrecht and director of The Living Links Center at Emory University.

Communication Host

Tetsuro Matsuzawa, Ph.D.  – Professor of Language and Intelligence, Kyoto University
Matsuzawa has been studying chimpanzee intelligence since 1976, incorporating observations of wild chimpanzees in Guinea and research with captive chimpanzees at the Primate Research Institute in Japan, of which he is the director. He aims to explore the evolutionary origins of human behavior by directly comparing human and chimpanzee performance in cognitive tasks. He has published multiple books including Cognitive Development in Chimpanzees and he co-edited The Mind of the Chimpanzee, which was published following the previous “Understanding Chimpanzees” symposium held at Lincoln Park Zoo in 2007.  In 2001, he was awarded the Jane Goodall Award and he is currently the president of the International Primatological Society.

Social Living Host

William McGrew, Ph.D.  – Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Primatology, University of Cambridge
An expert on wild chimpanzee behavior, McGrew began his career observing wild chimpanzees in Tanzania in the early 1970s. The focus of his research is chimpanzees’ socially-learned cultural behaviors and their ability to use tools. He is the author of numerous books, including Chimpanzee Material Culture: Implications for Human Evolution, and has written over 180 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. McGrew was also an editor for Chimpanzee Cultures, which was published after the second “Understanding Chimpanzees” symposium held in 1992. He currently serves on the scientific advisory board of the International Primate Protection League and on the board of trustees of the International Society for Human Ethology.

Conservation Session Host

John Mitani, Ph.D. – James N. Spuhler Collegiate Professor, University of Michigan
Mitani is a primate behavioral ecologist who investigates the behavior of our closest living relatives, apes, in both Africa and Asia. His current research involves studies of an extremely large community of wild chimpanzees that live in Uganda. In his work, he addresses questions about ape social behavior and vocal communication. Mitani’s research on the Ngogo chimpanzee community has provided insight into the effect of kinship on novel behavior, cooperation, hunting, and territoriality in chimpanzee society. In 2012 he published The Evolution of Primate Societies and is currently the editor for Advances in the Study of Behavior.

Ontogeny, Reproduction, & Life Histories Session Host

Anne Pusey, Ph.D. –James B. Duke Professor & Chair, Duke University
Pusey is a primatologist whose expertise focuses on the social relations of wild chimpanzees, including parent-offspring interactions and the underpinnings of when and why females leave their natal groups. Her career was founded as a research assistant at the Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania – Jane Goodall’s field site. Now, as Director of the Jane Goodall Institute Research Center at Duke University, Pusey is responsible for maintaining the database of historical records and data from Gombe and advising on the ongoing research at the field site in Tanzania. She has also collaborated with other institutions in studies of life history, personality, and health of chimpanzees.

Captive Welfare Session Host

Stephen Ross, Ph.D. – Director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Ross has studied chimpanzees for over 20 years and focused his research on the assessment, evaluation and improvement of psychological wellbeing of captive chimpanzees.  He supervises the multidisciplinary research program at the Fisher Center, including programs ranging from cognitive welfare, scientific advocacy and conservation.  He is Chair of the Board of Directors at Chimp Haven, the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary and Chair of the Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP) which manages the population of chimpanzees living in accredited North American zoos.  He is also founder of Lincoln Park Zoo’s Project ChimpCARE which serves to study and advocate for the welfare of privately-owned chimpanzees in the United States.

Learning and Cognition Session Host

Andrew Whiten, Ph.D. Wardlaw Professor, University of St Andrews
Whiten specializes in research aimed at elucidating how chimpanzees learn from one another and how their skills and strategies compare and contrast with our own and, in particular, he is interested in the transmission of new behavioral traditions within groups. He led a team of nine primatologists, including Jane Goodall, to catalogue the behavior of wild chimpanzees across different communities. From this, he identified that chimpanzees have local customs just like we do – these findings were published in a seminal paper entitled Cultures in Chimpanzees. Currently he is the Director of the Living Links to Human Evolution Research Center at Edinburgh Zoo and was recently awarded the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Senior Prize and Medal for Public Engagement for his success engaging the public with academic research.

Feeding Ecology and Tool Use Session Host

Richard Wrangham, Ph.D. – Ruth B. Moore Prof. of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University
Best known for his work on the evolution of human warfare, described in his book Demonic Males, and on the role of cooking in human evolution, described in his book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham has studied wild chimpanzee behavior for over 40 years. He is co-director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project, a long-term study of chimpanzees that reside in Uganda. His research culminates in the study of human evolution in which he draws conclusions based on the behavioral ecology of apes. As a graduate student, Wrangham studied under Jane Goodall and he was an editor for Chimpanzee Cultures, which was published after the second “Understanding Chimpanzees” symposium held in 1992. He is a patron of the Great Ape Survival Partnership.  

Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes
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