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How Research Meets Our Mission

FOW has an active research program examining chimpanzee behavior, sign language studies, communication, and animal welfare. These areas of research all share a common theme of communication. We address three objectives: 1. How do chimpanzees use American Sign Language? 2. How do chimpanzees and humans communicate gesturally? 3. How can we improve animal welfare? We believe that through an understanding of communication, we can improve animal welfare. Friends of Washoe supports Primate Communication scientists and digitization of the data from the project.

Objective 1: How do chimpanzees use American Sign Language? FOW's legacy is with Washoe, the first nonhuman to acquire ASL, and her family. Tatu and Loulis, the remaining chimpanzees, reside at Fauna Foundation. Caregivers trained in ASL and chimpanzee behavior continue making daily records of their signs and interactions with other chimpanzees and humans. FOW has received support from the Winley Foundations and David Bonnett Foundation for partial support of these caregivers. Analysis of these records is ongoing and includes student interns at Fauna Foundation and at Central Washington University, supervised by Dr. Jensvold. Collaboration includes faculty from Yakima Valley Community College, McGill University, and Central Washington University. For decades FOW supported data collection on chimpanzee signs in written records, film, and videos. Studies involved analysis of these records. FOW supports preservation of these records, partially supported by funding from the Lonsbury foundation. The CHCI Archive provides storage and research space on the campus of CWU.

A sampling of publications and presentations in this area of research include:

Jensvold, M.L. (2017). Ape Language. A. Fuentes (Ed.). International Encyclopedia of Primatology.

Wiley. Jensvold, M.L. (2017, April 7). Sign Language Studies Lead to Studies of Captive Chimpanzee Care. Gardner Memorial Lecture, Rocky Mountain Psychological Association, Salt Lake City, UT.

Jensvold, M.L. (2016, April 3). Signs of Art and Pretend Play in Chimpanzees. Workshop on the Origins of Awe and Wonder. University of Indiana, Bloomington.

Leeds, C.A. & Jensvold, M.L (2013). The communicative functions of five signing chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Pragmatics & Cognition 21:1, 224-247.

Leitten, L., Jensvold, M.L., Fouts, R., & Wallin, J. (2012). Contingency in requests of signing chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Interaction Studies, 13, 147-164.

Egan, T.E. & Jensvold, M.L. (2015). Pretend Play in Signing Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). In T. Wagner, (Ed.), Animal communication and cognition: Principles, evolution, and development (pp. 57-85). New York: Nova.

Jensvold, M.L., Wilding, L., Schulze, S.M. (2014). Signs of Communication in Chimpanzees. In G. Witzany (Ed.), Biocommunication of animals (pp. 7-19). Dordrecht: Springer.

Jensvold, M.L. (2014). Experimental Conversations: Sign Language Studies with Chimpanzees. In N. Gontier & O. Pombo (Eds.), The evolution of social communication in primates – a multidisciplinary approach (pp. 63-82). Switzerland: Springer. (peer reviewed)

Dombrausky, K., Hings, C., Jensvold, M.L., & Shaw, H. (2017, April). Variability in Sign Use in Chimpanzees Before and After Relocation. Poster Presented at Rocky Mountain Psychological Association, Salt Lake City, UT.

Keenan, S. & Jensvold, M.L. (2015, April). Effects of Conversational Partner in Conversations with Chimpanzees. Poster presented at the International Conference of Comparative Cognition, Melbourne Beach, FL.

Keenan, S. & Jensvold, M.L. (2014, May). Contextual Use of the Sign “Black” in a Signing Chimpanzee. Poster presented at Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, Central Washington University, Ellensburg WA.

Putzier, A., Bettini, A., Keenan, S., & Jensvold, M.L. (2014, May). Picture Naming in Signing Chimpanzees. Poster presented at Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, Central Washington University, Ellensburg WA.

Carner, A., Sullins, K., Wilding, L., Hendrickson, B., & Jensvold, M.L. (2013, May). Nighttime Enrichment Preferences of Three Captive Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Poster presented at Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, Central Washington University, Ellensburg WA.

Keenan, S. & Jensvold, M.L. (2013, May). Sign Dialects in Chimpanzees. Paper presented at Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, Central Washington University, Ellensburg WA.

Keenan, S., & Jensvold, M.L. (2013, March). Sign Dialects in Chimpanzees. Paper presented at the Northwest Anthropological Association Conference, Portland, OR.

Keenan, S., & Jensvold, M.L. (2012, April). Using Type-Token Ratio as Measurement for Lexical Diversity in Chimpanzees. Paper presented at Rocky Mt. Psychological Association, Reno, NV.

Leeds, C. & Jensvold, M.L. (2012, April). Spontaneous and Adjacent Utterances in Chimpanzee Conversations. Poster presented at Rocky Mt. Psychological Association, Reno, NV.

Bismanovsky, D., Zager, L., & Jensvold M.L. (2010, March). Recent Patterns of Conversation in an Adult Chimpanzee Using American Sign Language. Paper presented at the Northwest Anthropological Association, Ellensburg, WA.

Cole, M., Herigstad, T., & Jensvold, M.L. (2010, March). Daily Arousal Levels Effect on a Chimpanzees Categorical Sign Usage. Paper presented at the Northwest Anthropological Association, Ellensburg, WA. \

Gibbons, J., Leake, M., Potosky, R., & Jensvold, M.L. (2010, March). Use of Holiday Related Signs by a Cross-Fostered Chimpanzee. Paper presented at the Northwest Anthropological Association, Ellensburg, WA.

Jensvold, M.L. (2009). Animals and language. In K. Malmkjaer (Ed.), Linguistics encyclopedia (pp. 9-15). Routledge: London.

Jensvold, M.L., & Gardner, R.A. (2007). Conversational use of sign language by cross-fostered chimpanzees. In F.R. Lewis (Ed.), Focus on non-verbal communication research (pp. 237-279). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Fouts, R.S., & Jensvold, M.L.A. (2002). Armchair delusions vs. empirical realities: A neurological model for the continuity of ape and human languaging. In M. Goodman & A.S. Moffat (Eds.), Probing human origins (pp. 87-101). American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Fouts, R.S. Jensvold, M.L.A., & Fouts, D.H. (2002). Chimpanzee signing: Darwinian realities and Cartesian delusions. In M. Bekoff, C. Allen, & G. Burghardt (Eds.). The cognitive animal: Empirical and theoretical perspectives in animal cognition (pp. 285-292). MIT Press.

Jaffe, S., Jensvold, M. L., and Fouts, D. (2002) Chimpanzee to Chimpanzee Signed Interactions. In V. Landau (Ed.), Chimpanzoo conference proceedings: The chimpanzee community (pp. 67-75). Tucson, AZ: ChimpanZoo.

Jensvold, M.L.A., & Gardner, R.A. (2000). Interactive use of sign language by cross-fostered chimpanzees. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 114, 335-346. Cianelli, S. N. & Fouts, R. S. (1998). Chimpanzee to chimpanzee American Sign Language communication during high arousal interactions. Human Evolution, 13, 147-159.

Fouts, R. S. & Mills, S. T. (1997). Next of kin. New York: William Morrow.

Bodamer, M.D., Fouts, R.S., Fouts, D.H., & Jensvold, M.L.A. (1994). Private signing in chimpanzees. Human Evolution, 9, 281-296.

Jensvold, M.L.A., & Fouts, R.S. (1993). Imaginary play in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Human Evolution, 8, 217-227.

Objective 2: How do chimpanzees and humans communicate gesturally? While the CHCI chimpanzees use human gestures they additionally use the natural gesture of their species. Research projects at CHCI have explored various aspects of natural gestures in captive and free-living chimpanzees and this research is ongoing. These studies show that various chimpanzee groups have gestural dialects and that chimpanzees use combinations of gestures to communicate with conspecifics. This research is made possible by the chimpanzees at Friends of Washoe and the collection of videotapes from African chimpanzee sanctuaries and field settings. These studies extend into the human population as well including individuals with autism and deaf signer.

A sampling of publications and presentations in this area of research include: 

McCarthy, M., Jensvold, M.L., Fouts, D.H. (2012). Use of gesture sequences in captive chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) play. Animal Cognition, 16(3), 471-481. doi: 10.1007/s10071-012- 0587-6

Larsen, G., Campion, T. Jensvold, M.L. (2012, April). Gesture Use by Free-living Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) Related to Partner Attentional State. Poster presented at Rocky Mt. Psychological Association, Reno, NV.

Mas, J., Pritchard, A., Jensvold, M.L. Zager, L. (2012, April). The Effect of Signage on Zoo Visitors at a Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) Exhibit. Poster presented at Rocky Mt. Psychological Association, Reno, NV.

Campion, T.L., Jensvold, M.L., & Larsen, G. (2011). Use of gesture sequences in free-living chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. American Journal of Primatology, 73(1), 97.

Leeds, C.A., Davis, A., Jensvold, M.L., & Fouts, D. (2011, March). Evidence for Menstrual Synchrony in Captive Chimpanzees. Poster presented at the Northwest Anthropological Association, Moscow ID and (2011, May) Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, Central Washington University, Ellensburg, WA.

Hicks, T.C., Fouts, R. S. & Fouts, D. H. (2009). A survey of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in the selectively-logged Ngotto Forest, Central African Republic. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 12(3), 165-188.

Krause, M. A., & Fouts, R. S. (1997). Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) pointing: Hand shapes, accuracy, and the role of eye gaze. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 111 (4), 330-336.

Objective 3: How can we improve animal welfare? CHCI has a history of research exploring animal welfare. Early studies included environmental enrichment for the chimpanzees. This was funded for 11 years through Earthwatch. Later studies explored the relationships between caregivers and chimpanzees at CHCI and zoo settings. In August 2011 Mary Lee Jensvold through invitation presented this research at the Detroit Zoological Society's seminal symposium From Good Care to Great Welfare Advancing Zoo Animal Welfare Science and Policy. This demonstrates that CHCI is recognized as an international leader in scholarship on animal welfare. Additionally we have examined ways to lessen the negative impact of visitors both to CHCI and zoo settings. This research was funded by the Animal Welfare Institute and included collaborations with The Zoo Northwest Florida and the Oakland Zoo. This research has extended recently to studies at Fauna Foundation exploring the effect of operant conditioning in interactions; the use of species-typical behaviors in monkey-caregiver interactions; and the chimpanzees' use of space and enrichment at Fauna.

A sampling of publications and presentations in this area of research include:

Jensvold, M.L. (2017, March 30). Chimpanzee of Fauna Foundation, Captive Wildlife and the Law Symposium, Vermont Law School, South Royalton, VT.

Jensvold, M.L. (2016, October 18). Conversations with Chimpanzees. Bornean Orangutan Society Canada. Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jensvold, M.L. (2014, October). Philosophy of Care for Chimpanzees in Sanctuary. Invited symposium presentation North American Primate Sanctuary Association workshop. San Antonio, TX.

Jensvold, M.L., Zager, L., Bismanovsky, D. (2013). Promoting Nonhuman Animal Welfare: Interactions with Caregivers and Zoo Visitors. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 16, 384-385. [Abstract]

Mas, J., Carner, A., Sullins, K., Jensvold, M.L., Zager, L. (2013, May). Exploring Visitor Behavior at a Florida Zoo. Poster presented at Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, Central Washington University, Ellensburg WA.

Schulze, S., Mas, J., Stafford, R., Jensvold, M.L. (2013, May). Captive Chimpanzee Preference for Environmental Enrichment: Naturalistic Vs. Artificial. Poster presented at Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression, CentralWashington University, Ellensburg WA.

Carner, A., Sullins, K., Wilding, L., Hendrickson, B., Jensvold, M.L. (2013, March). Nighttime Enrichment Preferences of Three Captive Chimpanzees. Poster presented at presented at the Northwest Anthropological Association Conference, Portland, OR.

Schulze, S., Mas, J, Stafford, R., Jensvold, M.L. (2013, March). Captive Chimpanzee Preference for Environmental Enrichment: Naturalistic vs. Artificial. Poster presented at presented at the Northwest Anthropological Association Conference, Portland, OR.

Jensvold, M.L., Zager, L., & Bismanovsky, D. (2011, August). Promoting Animal Welfare: Interactions with Caregivers and Zoo Visitors. Paper presented at From Good Care to Great Welfare: Advancing Zoo Animal Welfare Science and Policy Symposium. Detroit, MI.

Jensvold, M.L., Buckner, J., & Stadtner, G. (2010). Caregiver-chimpanzee interactions with species-specific behaviors. Interaction Studies. Special Issue of Human-Animal Interactions, 11, 396-409.

Reveles, J., & Jensvold, M.L. (2010, March). Visitor Knowledge Gains in a New Educational Workshop: The Chimposium. Poster presented at the Northwest Anthropological Association, Ellensburg, WA.

Jensvold, M.L., Buckner, J., & Stadtner. (2009, September). Caregiver-Chimpanzee Interactions with Species-Specific Behaviors. Paper presented at the joint conference of the International Congress of Zookeepers and American Association of Zookeepers, Seattle, WA.

Jensvold, M.L. (2008). Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) responses to caregiver use of chimpanzee behaviors. Zoo Biology, 27, 345-359. Jensvold, M.L. (2007). Promoting positive interactions between chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and caregivers. Laboratory Primate Newsletter, 46, 1-4.

Jensvold, M.L., Field, A., Cranford, J., Fouts, R.S., & Fouts, D.H. (2005). Incidence of wounding within a group of five signing chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Laboratory Primate Newsletter, 44, 5-7.

Jensvold, M.L.A., Sanz, C.M., Fouts, R.S., & Fouts, D.H. (2001). The effect of enclosure size and complexity on the behaviors of captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 4, 53-69.

Fouts, R. S. & Fouts, D. H. (1999). My brothers keeper. In M. Rowe (Ed.) The way of compassion. New York: Stealth Technologies, 192-194 Fouts, R. S. (1998). On the psychological well-being of chimpanzees. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, 1(1), 65-73.

Learn about Tatu & Loulis's home at Fauna Foundation's website!