Jane Goodall moves primate research records to Duke

Posted March 28, 2011 6:26 p.m. EDT
Updated March 28, 2011 6:56 p.m. EDT

— The data of one of the world's most famous animal researchers is now at Duke University.

Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall was in Durham Monday to meet with Duke students and faculty about the chimpanzee study she started 50 years ago.

Goodall went to east Africa in 1960, when she was 26, to watch chimpanzees. Eventually, she gained the animals' trust and began to characterize them as having human-like qualities.

"I just simply decided, as nobody knew anything about the chimps in the wild, I needed to collect everything, as much as I could," she said Monday.

Her work attracted the attention of Anne Pusey, who worked on the project in Africa in 1970 and later began archiving the data at the University of Minnesota.

Goodall had previously stored the data in her home, where she said mice started getting into the records.

"We decided that, in fact, it would be better to bring all the original data to a safer place," said Pusey, who moved to Duke last year and became chairwoman of the Department of Evolutionary Anthropology.

The archive followed Pusey to Duke, and the university created a research center to house and manage Goodall's data, which includes an estimated 400,000 documents, such as hand-drawn maps, meticulous notes and narratives in English and Swahili.

"I think it's an incredible, priceless, unique resource," said Pusey, who will run the center.

Goodall's work continues in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania, and she spends most of her time speaking around the world about it.

"What keeps me going 300 days a year (is), everywhere I go, there are young people with just sort of shining eyes and wanting to tell Dr. Jane what they've been doing, what they are planning to do to make the world a better place," she said.