Moon Township, Pa. -- Famed conservationist Jane Goodall will speak Wednesday, March 25, as part of the Robert Morris University (RMU) Pittsburgh Speakers Series. Her talk takes place at 8 p.m. at Heinz Hall in downtown Pittsburgh.
In the summer of 1960, the then 26-year-old Goodall arrived on the shore of Lake Tanganyika in East Africa to study the area's chimpanzee population. Although it was unheard of for a woman to venture into the wilds of the African forest, the trip meant the fulfillment of Goodall's childhood dream. As Goodall first surveyed the mountains and valley forests of the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve, she had no idea her coming efforts would redefine the relationship between humans and animals or that this project would continue into the 21st century.
One of Goodall's most significant discoveries came in her first year at Gombe, when she saw chimps stripping leaves off stems to make the stems useful for fishing termites out of nearby mounds. This and subsequent observations of Gombe chimps making and using tools would force science to rethink the definition that separated man from other animals: "man the toolmaker."
Goodall also observed chimps hunting and eating bushpigs and other animals, disproving the widely held belief that chimpanzees were primarily vegetarians.
Goodall defied scientific convention by giving the chimpanzees names instead of numbers, and insisted on the validity of her observations that the chimps had distinct personalities, minds and emotions. She wrote of lasting chimpanzee family bonds. Through the years her work yielded surprising insights such as the discovery that chimpanzees engage in warfare.
Goodall established the Gombe Stream Research Center in 1964. Under the stewardship of Tanzanian field staff and other researchers, it continues Goodall's work today, making it one of the longest uninterrupted wildlife studies in existence.
In 1977, Jane founded the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation to provide ongoing support for field research on wild chimpanzees. Today, the mission of the Jane Goodall Institute is to advance the power of individuals to take informed and compassionate action to improve the environment for all living things. The institute is a leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats and is widely recognized for establishing innovative community-centered conservation and development programs in Africa and the Roots & Shoots education program in nearly 100 countries.
In January 2006, Goodall was honored as an Officer of the French Legion of Honor for her work with primates and her extraordinary efforts to encourage positive action around the world as well as the conservation, development and education programs of the Jane Goodall Institute. The Légion d'Honneur, established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, is France’s most prestigious honor. Past award recipients include oceanographer and environmentalist Jacques Cousteau, anti-Holocaust and human rights activist Elie Wiesel, and deaf and blind activist Helen Keller.
Goodall's scores of honors include the Medal of Tanzania, the National Geographic Society's Hubbard Medal, Japan's prestigious Kyoto Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award for Technical and Scientific Research 2003, the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science, and the Gandhi/King Award for Nonviolence. In April 2002 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan named Goodall a United Nations "Messenger of Peace." Messengers help mobilize the public to become involved in work that makes the world a better place. They serve as advocates in a variety of areas: poverty eradication, human rights, peace and conflict resolution, HIV/AIDS, disarmament, community development and environmentalism. In 2003, Queen Elizabeth II named Goodall a Dame of the British Empire, the equivalent of a knighthood.
Goodall has received honorary doctorates from numerous universities, including: Utrecht University, Holland; Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich; Stirling University, Scotland; Providence University, Taiwan; University of Guelph and Ryerson University in Canada; Buffalo University, Tufts University and other U.S. universities.
Goodall's list of publications is extensive, including two overviews of her work at Gombe—"In the Shadow of Man" and "Through a Window"—as well as two autobiographies in letters and a spiritual autobiography, "Reason for Hope." Her many children's books include "Grub: the Bush Baby" and "Chimpanzees I Love: Saving Their World." "The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior" is recognized as the definitive work on chimpanzees and is the culmination of Goodall's scientific career. Most recently, Goodall wrote "Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating in 2005."