My name is Lisa O’Bryan. I am a graduate student at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. For my PhD I am studying the calls chimpanzees make when they find food (“rough-grunts”) under the guidance of Dr. Michael Wilson. My research involves both observational studies at Gombe National Park and behavioral experiments in captivity. This blog describes my experiences studying the behavior of wild chimpanzees, as well as other associated activities. You can learn more about my research on my Research Page.
How did I get here?
I always knew I wanted a career involving animals, though I wasn’t always sure what that would be. In high school I thought I might want to be a veterinarian, so I found a job as a veterinary technician at a local animal hospital. However, I began to realize that I was more interested in behavior than anatomy and wild animals rather than pets. So, after high school I enrolled at Texas A&M University as a zoology major. While my classes offered a broad background in animal life, I also sought out opportunities to get hands-on experience with wild animals and their natural habitat. I became of member (and eventually president) of our campus’s caving organization, I worked as an intern for Texas Parks and Wildlife, and I became a research assistant in a bat communication lab. Through these experiences I developed a strong interest in vocal communication within animal social groups and decided that I wanted to study animal behavior as a career. So, during my last year of college I sent applications to graduate schools all over the country. I applied to work with animals as different as bats, elephants, and whales, though it was my acceptance at the University of Minnesota that sent me down my current path. I had the opportunity to study vocal communication in none other than the chimpanzees made famous by Dr. Jane Goodall. I couldn’t pass it up.