Biologists awarded NIH grant for research on stressors and offspring

Using data from JGI’s Gombe Stream Research Center, scientists will undertake a new study investigating stressors of wild chimpanzees and materal behavior.

Lincoln Park Zoo post-doctoral researcher Carson Murray, Ph.D., has received a $900,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to undertake this five-year research. She will work with Elizabeth Lonsdorf, Ph.D., and Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., both of Lincoln Park Zoo, as well as Martha McClintock, Ph.D., of the University of Chicago.

Like humans, chimpanzee mothers provide the majority of infant care, through a long period of infant development. The mother-offspring relationship is critical to how well offspring survive and reproduce later in life.

The scientists will use behavioral data to determine maternal styles, and health data to explore the relationship between offspring stress and health. The long-term goal of the research is to better understand how maternal behavior influences infant health and development in humans.

The research team will conduct the research at Gombe National Park, site of Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking chimpanzee research. Murray studied chimps there for two years. The project will combine new field data on stress levels with a wealth of long-term behavioral data collected since 1970 by Gombe researchers.

“For nearly 40 years, researchers have been following mother chimpanzees and their offspring, recording their interactions. This is a truly amazing dataset of 15,000 hours on 39 different mothers. No other study site has a comparable amount of data on great ape mother-infant interactions,” says Lonsdorf, director of the Center for Study of Conservation and Apes at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

They will use non-invasive techniques, gathering hormone data from fecal samples, a technique pioneered at Gombe.


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