In addition to being a pioneer in comparative psychology, Duane M. Rumbaugh studied primate intelligence, learning, and language. The Great Ape Trust of Iowa specializes in cognitive research, conservation, and welfare of great apes, and Rumbaugh coordinates academic and community relations at the facility. The founder of Great Ape Trust, Ted Townsend, said Professor Duane Rumbaugh was one of a handful of scientists who profoundly influenced the study of primate intelligence. He inspired generations of researchers to learn more about those most like us by unlocking some of the mysteries about our closest living relatives. As a result of his new role, Rumbaugh will be a liaison between Great Ape Trust and the community. He will work closely with universities and colleges in the area, as well as internationally, to develop programs and relationships.
We will learn and discover things we could not have imagined today through the development of the Great Ape Trust’s great apes and scientific research. Through it, Great Ape Trust will earn world recognition. Rumbaugh said, “It will be a very exciting project for us all and will become a valuable resource in Iowa’s heartland.” When I began my work, I never expected to develop a research facility like Great Ape Trust. It is the Trust’s mission that inspires me immensely and I am looking forward to the Trust’s continued advancement in research, education, and conservation. Dr. Rumbaugh was formerly Regents Professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta, where he is now an emeritus professor. During his time as director of the GSU Language Research Center, he founded it in 1981 and served it for 20 years. A computer-monitored keyboard was designed for the Lana Chimpanzee Language Project that he initiated in 1971, as well as other projects including children and young adults with severe learning disabilities whose language development was compromised. Rumbaugh served at Emory University’s Yerkes Regional Primate Center as an associate director and chief of behavior from 1969 to 1971.
A major contributor to comparative psychology in the 20th century, Rumbaugh began his research at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego State College in 1958 into the learning and language processes of great apes and monkeys. Rumbaugh claims that psychologists actively discouraged the idea that animals could think because the thinking was so archaic in the early days. Over time, however, we gained knowledge about primates’ social systems and cognitive abilities by studying them in the field, and in captivity. Rumbaugh received his master’s degree from Kent State University and his doctorate from the University of Colorado in general-experimental psychology. Since 1971, he has been supported by the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). In addition to NSF and NASA, Rumbaugh’s research has been supported by other agencies. According to Dr. David Washburn, director of Georgia State University’s Language Research Center, Rumbaugh is internationally renowned for his innovative and insightful comparative research into learning, numerical cognition and language. A gifted professor, mentor, and valued collaborator, he has contributed countless articles to comparative psychology. However, his greatest investments have been in students and colleagues.
Over 200 articles and books have been published by Rumbaugh and David A. Rubaugh in the field of animal intelligence and language acquisition, including Intelligence of Apes and Other Rational Beings. Animals Bodies, Human Minds-Ape, Dolphin and Parrot Language Skills with W.A. Hillix (Kluwer-Academic Press, 2004) and Animals Bodies, Human Minds-Ape, Dolphin and Parrot Language Skills with W.A. Hillix (Yale University Press, 2003). Great Ape Trust was founded in early 2002 as the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary. Construction began near the Des Moines River in June 2003 on the former sand and gravel quarry. In an area of lowlands, river forests, and lakes about five miles southeast of downtown Des Moines, Great Ape Trust of Iowa will be the world’s largest great ape facility. This facility will be the first in the world to study all four great ape species noninvasively, including bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans.
A great ape trust is committed to providing sanctuary and an honorable life for great apes, studying their intelligence, advancing great ape conservation, and promoting educational opportunities about them. Licensed by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), Great Ape Trust of Iowa is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit organization.
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