#598: Primatologist Isabel Behncke on Play, Sexual Selection, and Lessons from Following Bonobos for 3,000 Kilometers in the Jungles of Congo
Primatologist Isabel Behncke on Play, Sexual Selection, and Lessons from Following Bonobos for 3,000 Kilometers in the Jungles of Congo | Brought to you by LMNT electrolyte supplement, Athletic Greens all-in-one nutritional supplement, and Headspace easy-to-use app with guided meditations. More on all three below.
Isabel Behncke (@IsabelBehncke) is a field primatologist and applied evolutionary ethologist who studies social behavior in animals (including humans) to understand our urgent challenges with each other and the planet.
Isabel grew up at the foothills of the Andes mountains in Chile, where she developed a life-long love for nature and wildness as well as culture and the arts. An explorer-scientist, she is the first South American to follow great apes in the wild in Africa. She walked more than 3,000 km (~1864 miles) in the jungles of Congo for her field research observing the social lives of wild bonobo apes, who, together with chimpanzees, are our closest living relatives. Isabel documented how bonobos play freely in nature and has extended this research to study how human apes play—at Burning Man, other festivals, and in everyday life. Isabel has observed how play is at the root of creativity, social bonding, and healthy development, findings that have relevance in education, innovation, complex risk assessments, and freedom.
Isabel holds a BSc in Zoology and an MSc in Nature Conservation, both from University College London, an MPhil in Human Evolution from Cambridge University, and a PhD in Evolutionary Anthropology from Oxford University. She has won several distinctions for her public communication and knowledge integration, which range in formats from TED, WIRED, the UN, BBC, and Nat Geo to rural schools in Patagonia and traveling buses of schoolchildren in Congo. She is a senior fellow of the Gruter Institute, a TED fellow, and currently advises the Chilean government, working on long-term strategies in science, technology, innovation, and knowledge for Chile’s president. She can be found in Chile and New York City.
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