In the first Ecoflix Primate Podcast, Ian Redmond chats to Professor Gilly Forrester about how she came to be studying apes.
Gilly is a Professor of Evolutionary & Developmental Psychology at the University of Sussex. Her academic story began with a BSc in Cognitive Science from the University of California, San Diego (where she witnessed some of the invasive research methods used to study brain function) and continued with a PhD in Experimental Neuroscience at the University of Oxford. She designed complex puzzles for captive apes that mimic syntax in language to explore the link between hand-use and language, then gave the same puzzles to human children to see how they compare. Her new project is to see if studying how humans develop skills can help us prepare captive gorillas and chimps for successful release into their natural habitat in Africa. Gilly says she is "on a quest to better understand how we became the upright walking, talking, tool-using great apes that we are today – both through the evolution of our species and though the development of infants." She also likes to share that knowledge and engage the public at science festivals and on radio and television - which is why she is our inaugural Primate Podcaster on Ecoflix.