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Jane Goodall speaks to George Mason students at the Smithsonian campus

Dame Jane Goodall talks to students at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation in Front Royal, Virginia. The school offers a range of residential, hands-on, interdisciplinary programs in conservation biology for undergraduate and graduate students and professionals.

Jane Goodall Shares Stories with Mason Conservation Students

Conservationist and primatologist Jane Goodall enthralled a group of Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation students with tales from her work with chimpanzees during a visit to the Front Royal, Virginia-based facility.

“She’s an amazing storyteller. She closes her eyes, and I’m imagining her imagining this exact scene going on in her head,” says student Michelle Kott.

Like Goodall, Kott says she wants to work with wild animals, particularly on early stage cell development and in-vitro fertilization of big cats.

Goodall, who visited the school as part of her work with the Jane Goodall Institute, discussed how she gained the trust of a group of chimpanzees by getting one, “David Greybeard,” to first trust her.

While the chimps were on the move through the forest, Goodall says, she fell behind and feared she was lost. She continued walking and saw David Greybeard sitting by himself at the edge of the woods, apparently waiting for her to catch up.

“She offered him a nut,” says Mason biology major Zuri Gagnon, recalling Goodall’s talk. “He swipes the nut out of her hand and onto the ground as if to say, ‘Thanks, but that’s not necessary.’ And then he takes her hand and squeezes it.

“It’s amazing that she’s been in the field of conservation for so many years, and she’s still out here inspiring [those of] us that are just getting started.”

Gagnon is focusing her studies on environmental and conservation biology and wants to research elephant health and conservation.

“[Elephants] are kind of like my chimps,” Gagnon says.

Kott, who is studying animal and veterinarian sciences at Clemson University, says she appreciates Goodall’s holistic approach to conservation. She praised Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Program, a youth service program created to foster respect and compassion for animals and the environment, for promoting interconnectedness and demonstrating that helping the community is helping nature.

The Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation is based on the grounds of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, about an hour’s drive west from Washington, D.C.

Each semester, as a part of the Smithsonian-Mason Semester for Conservation Studies based at SCBI, students spend 16 weeks living on site at the facility and participating in intensive field and lab coursework alongside some of the top conservation scientists in the world.