Marjanne Kameka ’13, a Psychology major and Business Administration minor, had an amazing study-abroad experience in summer 2011. She spent three weeks at the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya as a research assistant to Dr. Stacy Lopresti-Goodman, assistant professor of Psychology. Marjanne hopes to one day have her own counseling practice, specializing in child psychology.
She says, “I will be applying to graduate school after Marymount, so it’s important that I show research experience on my resume. When the opportunity to record abnormal behavior in rescued chimps came up, I jumped at it. You can learn a lot from observing how social these animals are and how maternal deprivation affects their social and emotional development, just as it does in humans.”
The chimps, a protected species, have been rescued from sometimes horrible situations in various African countries. When they arrive at the sanctuary, they are resocialized into the kind of family groups they would have had in the wild. But for some chimps, the psychological damage they have already endured prevents them from fully reintegrating.
Marjanne says, “This was my first time traveling to Africa, so I didn’t know quite what to expect. We spent a few days in Nairobi, then traveled three hours north to Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where the sanctuary is located.”
Marjanne and Dr. Lopresti-Goodman lived in the research center at Ol Pejeta, a 90,000-acre private wildlife preserve, and drove out to the chimp sanctuary every morning, to spend the day observing the animals before returning to camp in the evening. Marjanne explains, “You can’t just walk on the property, because of all the wild animals. Once I saw a lion 20 feet from our vehicle. We also saw leopards, warthogs, and elephants. I felt pretty lucky: It’s not everyone who gets to go on safari on their way to work every day!”