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How to study primates at a small institution

July 16, 2018
By Whitney Helm
Kristin Bonnie, associate professor of psychology, studies nonhuman primates at Lincoln Park Zoo.

Associate Professor of Psychology Kristin Bonnie talks research at a small institution with The Chronicle of Higher Education:

[Kristin's] research is in nonhuman primates — in her case, studying how chimpanzees, gorillas, and capuchin monkeys make decisions when they’re surrounded by other members of their groups.

"When I was hired, I was explicitly told, twice, by the president at the time that there would be no nonhuman primates on campus — ever," Kristin says. "I was totally OK with that, because I don’t want to be responsible for maintaining even a small primate colony." But it meant she had to be creative in finding ways to continue her scholarship. So she organized a collaboration with researchers at the Lincoln Park Zoo, in Chicago, visiting regularly and sharing authorship of journal articles.

"I don’t feel isolated," she says. "The harder challenge for me is with other researchers in the field who are like, Why do you teach so many classes? Why aren’t you at a bigger research university where you could do more of this all the time?"

"While I love my research, at the end of the day I like working with students more," Bonnie says in the article, "At Small Colleges, Smaller Departments."

(A subscription is required to read the story, but it can be accessed through the campus network.)