DES MOINES, Iowa — Researchers are coming from out of state and out of the country to the southeast side of Des Moines. The Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary has a new name and is now allowing public tours, but the facility’s mission is the same as before.
“Our focus here is really on the research of the apes,” says Georgia State University Professor William Hopkins.
IPLS is home to five bonobos. The social apes are known for their communication skills.
“We’re very interested in how what we’re doing with them translates into better human behavior and human health,” says Hopkins.
In addition to studying the behavior of the endangered species, researchers are also using their work to shed new light on childhood autism.
“We think our work has lots of applications given the methodologies we’ve used in developing the communication system with the apes,” says Hopkins.
The only research facility of its kind relies on volunteers to keep its door open. A group of college students is spending the summer in Des Moines.
Megan Joyce is a senior studying French at York University in Toronto, Canada. She took a 24-hour bus ride to get to her internship in Iowa. Her days include cooking and cleaning for the apes, but she also has time to do some research of her own.
“We use systemic functional linguistics which is a really specific pockets of linguistics and it’s used to kind of break down conversation and dialogue that sort of incorporates culture and gestures,” says Joyce.