While Jane Goodall began her field work with little more than binoculars, a pencil and a notebook, times have changed. Today’s researchers use sophisticated technological tools:
- Global Positioning System handsets and Geographic Information Systems software enables accurate mapping of chimp ranges and natural resources.
- Satellite imagery allows tracking of habitat types and changes over time.
- Non-invasive sampling of urine and dung can measure hormones, SIVcpz (a virus similar to HIV) and signs of infections. Fecal samples can provide enough DNA to confirm paternity and other genetic relationships.
- Google Earth and high resolution satellite images allow folks with access to the Internet to take a virtual flight over Gombe – while they read blog entries from Gombe scientists in the field. Tune into JGI’s blog at: http://www.janegoodall.org/gombe-chimp-blog
Today’s conservationists know that both human and animal needs must be met to preserve wildlife species. In the past, it was thought that setting aside protected areas would be enough – but with the demands of a growing human population, humans and animals must coexist in the same landscapes.
GIS, or Geographic Information Systems, is one of the newest technologies being put to use for conservation efforts. GIS software enables conservationists to map chimp ranges, natural resources, and human settlements – down to a single tree or building, in some cases. JGI uses this powerful tool to develop land-use plans in cooperation with local villages.
High-resolution satellite images of Earth, essentially photographic maps, are anotherwe use to monitor habitat loss and human activity. Because the images are taken from an aerial perspective, this technology allows monitoring of areas that are remote or inaccessible by land. Illegal logging operations and slash-and-burn forest clearing for agricultural purposes are types of activities that may be seen in satellite imagery. Monitoring these activities, and predicting their effects on chimps, is an important part of ensuring the sustainability of chimpanzee populations.
Research also helps protect individual chimpanzee populations. At Gombe National Park in Tanzania, field staff members use noninvasive sample collection and laboratory methods to measure hormones, identify and monitor infections such as SIVcpz, a virus similar to HIV, and analyze DNA to confirm paternity and other genetic relationships.
Want to learn more about JGI’s research at Gombe? Take a virtual flight over the Gombe Stream National Park using Google Earth satellite images! Compare the dense vegetation inside and outside the park, and explore the topography of the hills where Dr. Goodall first spied wild chimpanzees. You can also follow Gombe’s chimps on our blog, and keep up with your favorite characters! Visit the blog now.