The long-term goal of Elizabeth Lonsdorf’s research program is to use wild chimpanzees as a model for the evolutionary roots of human development. During the fellowship period, Lonsdorf will work on a series of papers that integrate newly available long-term datasets to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the multiple factors influencing developing chimpanzees. She will examine the potential interactions of maternal characteristics (e.g. health, dominance rank and personality), and offspring sex on offspring development and fitness. She will also examine sources of adversity (e.g. a low-ranking mother, illness) and how these mediate achievement of developmental milestones. This research will provide important insights into maternal effects on offspring development, the roles of adversity and resilience in offspring, and the factors predicting successful single motherhood in our closest living relative.
Lonsdorf began studying nonhuman primates as an undergraduate student at the Duke University Primate Center. For her dissertation research at the University of Minnesota, she spent several months each year studying wild chimpanzees at Tanzania’s Gombe Stream National Park to document the development of tool-use skills in infants and juveniles. After earning her PhD, Lonsdorf became the founding Director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for Study and Conservation of Apes at Lincoln Park Zoo. She returns annually to Gombe to maintain a research program focused on chimpanzee health and infant development in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute and other collaborators. In addition, she is the director of Franklin and Marshall’s primate research laboratory, conducting behavioral research on the two capuchin monkey families that call F&M home.
Lonsdorf is an associate professor of psychology and a member of the Biological Foundations of Behavior Program at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.