She held no notes. She used few slides. But once Jane Goodall stepped onstage at Northrop auditorium Friday night, it was clear she carried a message summoned easily from memory.
“Hoo hoo, hohohoo hoho hooh! Hoooh!” the renowned primatologist called, mimicking the chimpanzee welcome she heard so often during her time in Africa. “This is me. This is Jane.”
So it was. As soon as she came into view, the audience in the packed auditorium at the University of Minnesota greeted her with a standing ovation.
Before a sold-out crowd, the famed conservationist shared why people should believe in the future even in the face of mounting threats to the planet.
“There is hope,” said Goodall, 83. “Just think about the consequences of the different choices you make each day.”
Goodall’s pioneering study of chimpanzees revolutionized the world’s view of the relationship between humans and primates. She is perhaps best known for her 1960 discovery that chimpanzees make and use tools.
“What I was learning so vividly was how like us they are,” Goodall said.
She recalled her childhood in England and lifelong passion to understand the Earth’s creatures. Tarzan, she told the giggling crowd, “married the wrong Jane.”
“I was born loving animals,” Goodall said in her quiet British accent.
‘An inspiration to us all’
At 26, she ventured into Gombe National Park in Tanzania, soon becoming a neighbor with chimps rather than a far-off observer. She upended scientific norms and gave them names. It’s because of Goodall that people across the globe learned their names, too.
Figures like Goodall are the reason that Cailin McMahon, 19, a sophomore studying genetics and cell biology at the U, first became interested in conservation.
“She’s just a living legend,” she said.
After decades studying chimpanzees in the wild, Goodall became a crusader for conservation, working to raise awareness about animal welfare issues. She now spends 300 days a year traveling to share her story and stress how all living creatures are connected.
Friday wasn’t Goodall’s first visit to the U. The international icon has a long friendship with the university, said Michael Wilson, an associate professor of anthropology who studies chimpanzees.
A former faculty member, Anne Pusey, and her team digitized Goodall’s data from Gombe, and students from the U still travel to the Tanzanian national park for research, Wilson said.
“Jane is an inspiration to us all,” Wilson said. “She is a pioneer.”
Goodall came to Minnesota with the same warning and plea she carries everywhere about the risks that humans pose to the planet.
She spoke of the “reckless burning of fossil fuels,” climate change and the destruction of the rain forest.
But as she began to detail youth conservation programs, the word “hope” sprang to Goodall’s lips like a quiet benediction.
She said young people, the resiliency of nature, social media and the power of the human brain and spirit give her optimism for the future.
Ben Mai, a 19-year-old biochemistry major, listened closely as Goodall shared her story and insights.
“I really admire how she kind of puts a spin on the positive side,” Mai said. “It encourages us to do better.”