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Meet The Team

Current Researchers and Students


Ruth Bowers-Sword

PhD student, Purdue University (USA)

May-August 2023

graduated from James Madison University with an MSc in Biology where I conducted primate surveys and evaluated the spatiotemporal patterns of gun hunting using passive acoustic monitoring in the Ndokbou forest of Cameroon. I’m currently a Ph.D. student at Purdue University where I will be comparing the effectiveness of traditional forest surveys to the use of passive acoustic monitoring for assessing primate abundance and human disturbance patterns (e.g., gun hunting, logging) across a habitat protection gradient using the Issa Valley research station at GMERC as one of my study sites. Overall, I’m excited to explore the potential use of passive acoustic monitoring as a novel and efficient tool for improving primate conservation methods!


Laura Jessup

Post-Doctoral Researcher, University of Minnesota (USA)

April 2023 - present

I am a broadly-trained ecologist using systems-level thinking to
promote sustainable relationships among ecosystems and the people that rely on them. Miombo woodlands support millions of people across southern Africa; however, human reliance on the woodlands also puts them at risk of degradation and deforestation, for example, through increased fire frequency. Despite the importance of the woodlands to people, we have an incomplete understanding of the effect of fire on miombo woodlands across the region. At GMERC, I will be conducting
research to better understand the link between natural forest
regeneration, fire regime, understory growth, and plant functional
traits in miombo woodlands of western Tanzania*. I plan to expand my research in western Tanzania to include forest-based livelihoods and forest governance to better understand miombo woodlands as a dynamic social-ecological system.


*This research is funded by the Fulbright Student Program, Us
Department of State


Romane Leten

Maastricht University (The Netherlands)

March 2023 - present

I recently graduated from my Bachelor in liberal arts and natural sciences from the University of Maastricht, The Netherlands. I am currently doing an internship at GMERC to gain field work experience, more specifically in the behavior and communication of primates. My admiration and interest for wildlife and animal behavior started at a young age. My main focus during this internship is to gain skills in field primatology, from behavioural to ecological data collection. This will allow me to better understand the complex relationship between behaviour, ecology, and conservation 


Fleur Drontmann

Van Hall Larenstein University (The Netherlands)

February 2023 - present

I'm  from the Netherlands and  currently in my second year of the study Animal management.  I'm doing my orientation internship at GMERC to get experience in the primatology and field research. My fascination for chimpanzees started at a young age, and GMERC gives me the chance to study them in the wild. I will mainly focus on the territorial behaviour and hope to continuing wildlife research in the future.


Lian Bakker

Van Hall Larenstein University (The Netherlands)

February 2023 - present

My name is Lian Bakker, I am a second year Animal Management student from the Netherlands. I’m doing my orientation internship at GMERC to get experience in the primatology and research field. During my internship I will focus on the activity budget of chimpanzees during seasonal fluctuations. Ive always been interested in primates and especially great apes and I hope to continue in this field in the future. So what better way than to follow my internship at GMERC.


Theresa Schulze

Independent Researcher

September 2022 - Present

My name is Theresa Schulze. I recently graduated from the Julius-Maximilians University of Würzburg in Germany with a BSc in Biology. I joined GMERC to gain primate field experience before pursuing a Master's program. As mushrooms occur throughout the Issa Valley (esp. during the rainy season) and are long-known to be an important food for Issa's primates, my research focuses on the mycophagy among chimpanzees, baboons and red-tailed monkeys. To do this, I will look at when primates start eating mushrooms, which species they consume, and what percentage of the total diet is comprised by mushroom consumption. In addition, I am interested in the distribution and availability of fungi across Issa and whether this represents a high quality, fought after food! 


Nora Bennamoun

Independent Researcher

August 2022 - Present

My name is Nora Bennamoun, I am a French student. I have a Bachelor in Biology from the University of Paris-Diderot in France, and I recently graduated in 2021 from the University of Oxford Brookes in England, with an MSc in Primate Conservation. My eagerness to work with chimpanzees led me to GMERC and work in the Issa Valley Research station. As fires occur annually over the dry season at Issa, my primary interest is to investigate how burned landscapes affect primate dietary ecology. I am focusing on primate behavioural responses and specifically diet to see if foods consumed in burned areas have different mechanical properties compared to those in unburned areas. 

During my time here, I will sample foods and analyse them using the FLS II (see picture). The machine allows us to "recreate '' food fractures when consumed by animals and measure e.g., toughness and stiffness of different foods. More soon!

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