Dislocation: My Transition Back to Gombe National Park

Enjoying a view of Lake Victoria during my travels to Gombe National Park. (Photo by: Lisa O’Bryan)

Lisa O’Bryan is in Gombe National Park in Tanzania, where Jane Goodall began the first studies of chimps in the wild. Lisa will be heading into the forests to try to better understand the calls chimps make, to help discover just where the line is (or isn’t) between sounds and speech.


A few months ago, I had a dream I was sitting alone in the middle of Gombe National Park in Tanzania. Actually, this isn’t that unusual for me as I have spent 9 months of my life doing just that. What was alarming about this dream was that I had been teleported back with no warning or preparation, simply torn from my life in the States and dropped in camp. I was distraught, left wondering how I would get by, until I woke up curled in my bed in Minneapolis. I rolled over and contentedly fell back to sleep with the comforts of home surrounding me.

However, when the dream returned again a few weeks ago, I found it harder to shake. That’s because this time when I awoke, I was squeezed between strangers somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. I felt a sudden jolt of panic as I realized I WAS being transported back to Gombe, albeit within the realm of modern technology. However, as the fog of sleep began to clear, my weeks of preparation came back to me along with a flood of relief. I was not unprepared, I reminded myself. Nevertheless, I quickly reviewed my packing list to put my mind at rest.

I recounted the equipment I needed for my research first. I remembered packing my recorder and microphone, waterproof notebooks, field bags, water bottles, ponchos, flashlights, hiking boots, insect repellant, computer, and the video camera loaned from National Geographic. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least if I had forgotten all else I would be able to accomplish what I was going to Gombe to do: study chimpanzee vocal communication. However, without some other necessities it would be a long five months. I continued reviewing other essentials. Shampoo and conditioner (check), power bars (check), multivitamins, antimalarial drugs, sunscreen, my Kindle, Sour Patch Kids (check). All seemed accounted for.

I nestled into my seat and turned my attention back to the movie. Everything was going to be OK. In contrast to my dream I was prepared, and, with two field seasons under my belt, more so than I have ever been before.


Learn More

Read All Gombe 2013 Blog Posts

National Geographic Jane Goodall Archives

Lisa O’Bryan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation research focuses on the function of chimpanzee food-associated calling behavior. She is currently conducting fieldwork at Gombe National Park through the end of May 2013.
  • Gwen Walters

    Lisa, I am so proud of you and your acomplishments! You are one amazing woman! Congratulations to you on the grant you received from National Geographic for your ongoing work with the chimpanzees! It will be nice to follow you and your work on-line and be able to post a comment to you occasionally! Best of Luck to you and be safe! Love, Gwen

  • matinde chacha

    Lisa, I believe you are real model to all educationists mostly ladies who fear to visit here in Tanzania.

    Please encourage others to visit these marvelous sites in Tanzania.

    I once invited my friends when I was in USA but n vain with lots of blur blur!

    Blessed, Lisa.


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