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Field Work: Gorillas, Lions, and More

Our "science history" notes this week at Facebook included mention of both Dian Fossey and Joy Adamson. Both women left behind inspiring legacies and volumes of experience gathered from living with, observing, and interacting with animals.

Born on January 16, 1932: Dian Fossey, a famed zoologist whose study of gorillas in Rwanda, Africa is chronicled in Gorillas in the Mist. The book is her own account of thirteen years spent living in an African rain forest and was also later made into a movie starring Sigourney Weaver.

Students can use the BLAST bioinformatics tool to examine the relationship between humans and our non-human relatives in the Neanderthals, Orangutans, Lemurs, & You—It's a Primate Family Reunion! genomics Project Idea.

Born on January 20, 1910: Joy Adamson, naturalist and author, best known (along with her husband George Adamson) for raising and training Elsa, an orphaned lioness, and eventually successfully releasing her into the wild. After Elsa, Adamson worked with other animals, including a cheetah and a leopard. Adamson chronicled her work in a number of books, beginning with Born Free (also made into a movie).

Teaching the family dog to shake hands or give a high five is (depending on the breed) likely far less dangerous than working with a wild animal, but students can begin to explore the ways in which animal trainers approach the process of teaching animals new skills or tricks by working through the Tricks for Treats: How Long Does It Take to Train Your Pet? project.

Making Connections

For a look at ways to turn a love of animals into a career, explore the following science career profiles: zoologist, animal trainer, park ranger, and veternarian.

For other exciting Project Ideas designed to let students explore science questions related to animals, see projects in Zoology, Biology, and Mammalian Biology.

Interested in reading other firsthand accounts from female scientists, zoologists, naturalists, and conservationists? You might also enjoy learning more about Jane Goodall's legendary work, chronicled in titles that include: Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe, My Life with the Chimpanzees, Africa in My Blood: An Autobiography in Letters: The Early Years.

(Science Buddies Project Ideas in Zoology are sponsored by the Medtronic Foundation.)

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