Jane Goodall and the Courage of Her Convictions

jane goodallJane Goodall, speaking at the University of Iowa, had the courage of her convictions while studying primates in the wild. The 79-year-old scientist spoke to 5,000 university faculty, students, K-12 students, and members of the community. Her words were inspirational and timely, as she shared her experiences and encouraged more academics to believe in themselves as they open up new doors of scientific discovery.

Goodall has taken part in nature conservation for more than 50 years. The beginnings of her studies were accomplished in Tanzania, with a group of chimpanzees. Patience turned out to be the key ingredient in gathering pivotal information, since the chimpanzees were shy of Goodall’s presence. After many months, the group became used to her being in their environment.

She found that the chimps would use sticks to access termites from their nest. It was the first time a scientist had shown that another species of animal used tools. The findings were not embraced by scientists in the 60’s, however, Goodall stuck to her convictions and shared her results with the world.

“After a few months, it became so clear we humans are not the only personalities on the planet,” said Goodall, who observed that chimps were capable of  playful and affectionate behavior, but at other times were violent. She realized that some of their behaviors mimicked human behavior, and began to dig deeper for those similarities.

Jane Goodall and the courage of her convictions opened up a new frontier in scientific investigation, inviting others to leave the comfort of laboratories and enter the reality of an animal’s world.  After her time in Africa, Jane Goodall completed a Ph.D at Cambridge University in England. She was invited there after her study results became the buzz of the decade. National Geographic gave Goodall a grant to continue her important research.

Now Goodall spreads the causes of conservation, science and the destiny between man and his natural community. She speaks to audiences all over the world with her exhortation to take up the study of animals and to determine their contribution to a better planet.

In 1977, Goodall organized the Jane Goodall Institute, which purpose was to protect chimpanzees and their environments. She has also created Roots and Shoots, a program for youth that is making a difference all over the globe in 130 countries. She has seen the need to spread the word for conservation and science.

Goodall sees the benefit of such research being returned to humankind. The concern for animals and their habitats will have a lasting effect for the air, the water and the forests of the world. She does not see such a sharp division between human and animal behavior.

Goodall hopes that more students will take up the cause of animals to protect their habitats and to gain understanding about their lives. “Hundreds of thousands of people around the world can break through and make it a better world for all living things,” she said.

Her speaking engagements on the campus of universities across the country will continue. The University of Iowa will offer the full lecture until April 11, on UITV, channel 17. Goodall will appear at the University of Nebraska on March 20.

By Lisa M Pickering

Iowa Now
University Herald