Baldwin Fellow Simone Dagui Ban is a PhD student from the Félix Houphouët Boigny University in Côte d’Ivoire. Following the 2010-11 election crisis that made studying in her home country impossible, Ban was given the opportunity to study at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology for one year. She was awarded her first Franklin Mosher Baldwin Memorial Fellowship in the spring of 2013 so that she could return to Leipzig to continue her studies. Ban is now a second year Baldwin Fellow and plans on completing her PhD studies at Max Planck in December 2014. She will then be the first female in her country to have earned a PhD in primatology.
Ban studies the ecological intelligence of chimpanzees, specifically the search strategies and memory skills they need to acquire ripe fruit. She hopes to build on previous studies to gain further insight into what chimpanzees remember about feeding events (location, abundance of fruit, emotional state, etc.) and how these memories affect their ability and decision to revisit fruiting trees. The following is the abstract from her first paper published in the journal Animal Cognition:
The use of spatio-temporal memory has been argued to increase food-finding efficiency in rainforest primates. However, the exact content of this memory is poorly known to date. This study investigated what specific information from previous feeding visits chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus), in Ta ̈ı National Park, Coˆte d’Ivoire, take into account when they revisit the same feeding trees. By following five adult females for many consecutive days, we tested from what distance the females directed their travels towards previously visited feeding trees and how previous feeding experiences and fruit tree properties influenced this distance. To exclude the influence of sensory cues, the females’ approach distance was measured from their last significant change in travel direction until the moment they entered the tree’s maximum detection field. We found that chimpanzees travelled longer distances to trees at which they had previously made food grunts and had rejected fewer fruits compared to other trees. In addition, the results suggest that the chimpanzees were able to anticipate the amount of fruit that they would find in the trees. Overall, our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that chimpanzees act upon a retrieved memory of their last feeding experiences long before they revisit feeding trees, which would indicate a daily use of long-term prospective memory. Further, the results are consistent with the pos- sibility that positive emotional experiences help to trigger prospective memory retrieval in forest areas that are further away and have fewer cues associated with revisited feeding trees.
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