6:35 p.m. PDT October 15, 2015
Maya Kaup wants to live among the sloths.
A student of biology and Spanish at Willamette University, Kaup has always felt a strong connections with animals, even more than with humans.
“I am always really busy, always on the go,” she said. “Sloths are the opposite. The parallel helps me balance myself and learn how to slow down.”
Kaup, 20, finds sloths fascinating and intriguing in more ways than one. For instance, she thinks it is really cool that unlike other animals, sloths have evolved to get slower. Kaup can’t get enough of them.
Some people might find it strange that someone would want to live in nature with sloths. But Kaup knows that everyone is different.
Instead of looking to her city-centered friends, she looks up to world-renowned scientist Jane Goodall, who lived among wild chimpanzees in modern-day Tanzania when she was only 26 years old. Because of Goodall’s bold and brave curiosity, along with her deep love of animals, she changed the way people understand chimpanzees and even science.
Kaup, along with hundreds of other curious students, had the opportunity to meet Goodall, 81, on Thursday at the Oregon Youth Summit at David Douglas High School in Portland.
“She’s been my hero since I was 4 years old,” she said. “She sees animals in a different way than most humans do. She started a new (wave) of animal research, which is something I aspire to do as a field researcher.”
Kaup and the others students seemed nervous and excited Thursday as they met with the calm and welcoming Goodall.
“I was really, really excited,” Kaup said, “but I was worried I was going to forget what to say and faint at the same time.”
Goodall spent the morning walking around the narrow hallways of the Portland school, weaving between tables and listening to the presentation of every project, while holding her trusted Mr. H, a stuffed toy monkey.
From robots to osprey, each project was meant to improve the world, whether by improving the environment, helping the nonhuman animals of the earth, or tackling social justice issues the humans face.
Kaup presented her project on food waste reduction and ending hunger. She has worked at Willamette University over the past year to establish a food recovery network that collects the university’s uneaten food and donates it to local homeless shelters and food banks.
In the past year, the student organization has been able to donate nearly 1,200 pounds of food.
Kaup was among many impressive projects at the summit, where eight Salem area schools were represented: Chapman Hill Elementary, The Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School, Sprague High School, South Salem High School, McNary High School, Optimum Learning Environments and Valley Inquiry charter schools, and Willamette University.
Students from Sprague’s honors science class shared their research on biometic robots and osprey habitat watch.
The students said speaking with Goodall was nerve-wracking since they didn’t have much time and wanted to impress her with their research.
Javier Martinique, 16, of McNary High School talked about the Claggett Creek watershed monitoring and improvement project with a few other students from his advanced placement environmental science course.
“I was a little nervous,” he said. But the rest of the students and teacher agreed that he was smooth and did well with the only 15 seconds he had to tell her about their project.
After the presentations and a break for lunch, the students crowded into the gym to hear Goodall speak.
Goodall encouraged the students to support one another and to feed their intellectual curiosity.
She told many stories of her mother and the importance of her mother’s support of Goodall’s love of animals.
“A different kind of mother may have crushed (my) scientific curiosity,” she said. “Without my supportive mother, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today.”
When Goodall was 10, she decided she would go to Africa, live with the chimpanzees, and write books about them so the rest of the world would one day know about them as she would.
Years later, Goodall’s work has redefined science and taught the world about the life of chimpanzees, and Goodall’s institutes and programs have spread across the globe.
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About Jane Goodall
In July 1960, Jane Goodall began her landmark study of chimpanzee behavior in what is now Tanzania. Her work at Gombe Stream would become the foundation of future primatological research and redefine the relationship between humans and animals. In 1977, Goodall established the Jane Goodall Institute, which continues the Gombe research and is a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats. Goodall’s honors include the French Legion of Honor, the Medal of Tanzania, and Japan’s prestigious Kyoto Prize. In 2002, Dr. Goodall was appointed to serve as a United Nations Messenger of Peace and in 2003, she was named a Dame of the British Empire.
— Jane Goodall Institute