“If we kill off the wild, we are killing off a part of our souls.”
Jane Goodall is one of the most influential women in the world of science. With little prior knowledge, a notebook and a huge passion for animals, she set out into the rainforest of Gombe to study the world of chimpanzees. Goodall had no prior college or university education and worked as an assistant editor in a film studio until she had enough money for her first trip to Africa. She contributed the most revolutionary and impactful studies in the field of primatology; work that would forever change the way the world viewed our closest animal relatives.
Some of these groundbreaking discoveries include information on how chimpanzees use tools, how they form bonds and act within a family, controlling territories, and how they are ranked within a group (alpha male, infants, females). Most of Goodall’s research was expressed through many books she authored, as well as organizations she founded later in her career. Her contributions to primatology were important because, before her, very little was known about not only the basics of a chimpanzee’s life but how their brains work and how they are similar to us.
Goodall had many prominent wants and fears throughout her life and time in Gombe. Many of them, on both ends of the spectrum, included her son. Grublin was born in London but raised in Gombe with his mother and father (Goodall’s husband) until the school age of 6. Goodall was very worried about how he would take the transition from Gombe back to London and wanted him to be happy and safe. Overall, she wanted to give her son and her husband a good life while balancing her studies in Gombe. I would say her largest want throughout her whole life is to be around animals and within nature, forming bonds and expanding her knowledge. Ever since she was young, Goodall loved the wild and wanted to be in the forest. At many points in her life, Goodall feared not doing well in her research and had to work hard to stay motivated through the pitfalls. There were times when she wasn’t getting anywhere, when she wasn’t progressing fast enough or when the chimpanzees were taking a long time to form bonds. At times like this, she also feared to lose all her progress and having to restart what she had done to develop friendly relationships with different chimps in the family.
Her patience and motivation were taken to its limits at certain periods of time when she was studying in Gombe. Having Grublin proved to be a large obstacle for her studying, although she did put staying in Gombe over moving back to London with her son for schooling. One of her obstacles in Gombe while studying was a sickness and war outbreak between the chimps. They grew dangerously ill very fast and many died from the virus. This provoked hostility between the animals, revealing a new side of truculent, aggressive turmoil. Thankfully Goodall and her team were not affected by the sickness, although new rules were implanted for touching and exposure to the animals. A few ways she was able to get through these difficulties was remaining positive, driven and aspirant. She was a very goal-oriented person and this kept her in-check, focused and patient. This is the main thing that draws me to Goodall in comparison to other people. She had to battle through the challenging gender norms and lack of post-secondary education to earn opportunities for studying and travel. I also love and share her compassion for animals and a desire to help them. The main thing that draws me to this person is what she has done for the world of primatology. We don’t always realize how much one person can affect one area of science so greatly, and I think Jane Goodall is a good example of this.
As learners, Goodall and I share our drive to complete goals despite how grueling or challenging they may be, in pursuit of our passions and research. We are both very independent and often put our learning in front of other priorities in life such as social connections. I know many of the choices I have made in my life academic wise have broken relationships with people, to open up opportunities for a better or more enriched learning environment. An example of this in Goodall’s life is when she left everyone she knew in London to go to Gombe. Although she did travel with her mother at first, all her friends were still in Europe and she made new connections with the people in Gombe (and the chimpanzees of course). We also share intelligence and strive to help (animals more than people in most cases), being raised upon good morals and taught to respect and care for animals. Goodall is a good example of how positive and rewarding one’s long-term goals can be but also what one needs to go through to get there.
My main goals in TALONS are staying focused, successful, motivated and engaged in what I am doing. I do not want to lose interest in any of my studies but stay passionate and enthusiastic, despite where my talents lie in each academic area. In my opinion Goodall exemplified each of these characteristics while she was in Gombe, however, she did not have to try as hard to stay engaged because she was happily immersed in everything she was doing. Nonetheless, she strived to be and stay successful, motivated and focused in and out of her direct research field. Inevitably throughout her career and life, Goodall encountered barriers. Most of these barriers I cannot relate with because I was not exposed to a chimp plague, for example, or haven’t had a son I was separated from because of schooling and studying. However, Goodall did face many stereotypical challenges when the opportunity for her to go to Gombe first arose; the largest being people thought she was under classified because she was a female, for one, and she had no science degrees of any kind. It was unknown and against the norms for a young woman purely driven by passion and desire to study alone in a rainforest with little prior information on the topic, and it was clear to Goodall before she went to Gombe that many people doubted her. She was determined to stay focused on the chimpanzees and was good at putting people’s negative opinions behind her. I will address this in my speech by making connections with her barriers; how they are similar to mine, how I feel like they weren’t talked enough about and how people in the present still go through similar experiences (battling norms and stereotypes).
An obstacle I share with Goodall (along with gender) is how women are still underestimated and thought lower of than men in topics such as science. At the beginning of middle school, I wanted to be a doctor in a trauma or surgery room, but my teachers told me I should look at becoming a vet or even something in the arts (another topic I was passionate in at the time). Their reasoning was that it was a lot to take on as a job and become too stressful if I ever wanted to start a family while I was practicing medicine. However, they supported the same futures for the boys in my class for our career education subject. I pursued my love for anatomy and physiology and continued to work on many projects focusing around many areas (skeletal, nervous, etc) over those 3 years.
Jane Goodall is worth learning about on one’s own because of her impact on science and how much it helped us understand not only chimpanzee’s brains but ours as well. She learned and taught important life lessons while she was in the wilderness, gathered from the 50 years she spent alongside these amazing animals. She worked hard and didn’t let the stereotypes and hardships define her. She advocated strong, positive beliefs about respecting and finding the serenity, calmness, and messages nature teaches us that we don’t always notice. I chose Jane Goodall because of how much she revolutionized primatology and the idea of women in the field of science. She is one of the strongest, hardworking and patient role models I know and I aspire to be someone as respectful and motivated as she was when doing the things she loved to do. My takeaway wisdom and lessons from Goodall is that it’s okay to fail before you succeed and this is how you learn. Barriers are just challenges that can be overcome with a good mindset and positive outlook, and it is important to think of these fails as ways to learn how to make the outcome better for next time. Goodall taught me to go outside my comfort zone and make sacrifices for the things I love, and live by the phrase “your comfort zone is just a suggestion.” She showed me that whenever I am stressed to go out in nature and find peace within yourself. Nature is the best way to deal with things you encounter in your life that might seem difficult and challenging. I am thankful I chose Jane Goodall as my notable this year because I am learning so much about how to keep a steady mindset through spending time in nature.
By Michaela Da Silva. Oct 12, 2018
The Observer (Jun 27, 2010). Jane Goodall: 50 years working with chimps. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/jun/27/jane-goodall-chimps-africa-interview
T Gerber (Oct 2017). How Jane Goodall Changed What We Know About Chimps. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2017/10/becoming-jane-goodall/
J Goodall (Mar 9, 2018). Dr. Jane Goodall on Sexism and Gender Equality. Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://time.com/5192249/jane-goodall-sexism-gender-equality-documentary/
C John (Mar 13, 2018). Hugo Eric Louis van Larwick wiki: Jane Goodall’s son, age, father, documentary. What’s Trending. Retrieved from https://www.earnthenecklace.com/jane-goodall-son-hugo-eric-louis-van-lawick-wiki-father-age-documentary/
Jane. Dir: Brett Morgan. National Geographic Studios, 2017. Film. Retrieved from (Netflix) https://www.netflix.com/watch/80216161?trackId=13752289&tctx=0%2C0%2C44a956c77cfbc66c2c93d5d3a1ac07d48cc9352d%3Ae21c228b4837768c0ecc11be43d85a16660e155b%2C%2C