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News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

11-19-07

StephChimp

Students may be able to get as close to the chimpanzees at Prue tz' Senegal research site as ISU doctoral student Stephanie Bogart is in this photo through the online Primate Behavior course, which will begin March 10. Photo by Andrea Socha.

Contacts:

Jill Pruetz, Anthropology, (515) 708-1397 (cell), (515) 294-5150, pruetz@iastate.edu

Dave Gieseke, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, (515) 294-7742, dgieseke@iastate.edu

Mike Ferlazzo, News Service, (515) 294-8986, ferlazzo@iastate.edu

ISU primatologist to teach online course from chimp research site in Senegal

AMES, Iowa -- Iowa State University primatologist Jill Pruetz will tell you that it's not easy to study savannah chimpanzees in the wilds of Senegal. Aside from having to navigate the sometimes rough African terrain, there are other health risks -- from illnesses such as malaria and dysentery, to venomous snakes and scorpions.

But thanks to a new online course, students won't have to leave the comforts of their own homes to learn from Pruetz and the chimps living at her research site in Africa.

The anthropology course "Primate Behavior" (Anthr 350x/550x) will begin March 10 and feature some live satellite video feeds of Pruetz from the field in Senegal. The three-credit course is an introduction to primates, with a focus on their behavior. A non-credit option will also cover the same material.

An associate professor of anthropology, Pruetz was scheduled to be on research leave during the spring semester. She was approached by Michael Whiteford, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and University Professor of Political Science Steffen Schmidt about teaching a class from Senegal. Schmidt has been active in distance education since it debuted at Iowa State and says Pruetz' course offers some challenging logistical obstacles to provide transmission from Africa.

Mike McCoy, a graduate student in interdisciplinary graduate studies; and Mykola Sarazhynskyy, instructional development specialist for continuing and distance education, are assisting with the technological details. They have helped arrange a satellite connection, and Pruetz will be carrying a satellite phone while she's out observing the chimps.

"We're going over in January to test it out and make sure we have a good connection," she said. "I think we're going to record a lot of video clips and lectures and that sort of thing, just in case we have any transmission difficulty."

Students will receive information and examples on how to conduct field research on primates. The class will also explore basic evolutionary concepts, current trends and theories in the field of primatology, and issues related to primate conservation.

"The beginning will be pretty basic with some pre-recorded mini-lectures," Pruetz said. "The last several weeks of the class is where I have really specific examples from the (research) site, and that's when we hope to provide live video feeds.

"I'll have certain times of the day, and certain days of the week when students can tune in for a live feed, but it's not going to be every day," she said.

Registration is open through March 3 and available online at www.SavannaChimp.com. Pruetz says 90 students have already registered for the half-semester course.

The ISU primatologist made global news last February with her study reporting that chimpanzees from her site are using spear-shaped tools to hunt. Hunting tools used in her discovery are expected to be included in a Smithsonian Institution exhibit in 2009, according to Richard Potts, director, Human Origins Program, National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian.

Pruetz was accompanied last summer by a video crew that will include her research in a future Public Broadcasting System "Nova" documentary on primate intelligence, as well as a reporter and photographer from National Geographic magazine for a future feature story on her work.

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Pruetz

Jill Pruetz

Quick look

A new online course will allow students to learn from ISU primatologist Jill Pruetz and the chimps living at her research site in Senegal. The anthropology course Primate Behavior (Anthr 350x/550x) will begin March 10 and feature some live satellite video feeds of Pruetz from the field in Senegal. The three-credit course is an introduction to primates, with a focus on their behavior. A non-credit option will also cover the same material.

Quote

"I'll have certain times of the day, and certain days of the week when students can tune in for a live feed, but it's not going to be every day."

Jill Pruetz