April 15, 2011

Vanessa Woods to deliver Charles Tenney lecture

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Vanessa Woods, author and researcher, is the Charles D. Tenney Distinguished Lecturer for the spring semester at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Woods delivers her lecture, “The Bonobo Handshake: What We Can Learn from Our Peaceful Cousins in the Congo,” beginning at 7:30 p.m. on April 19 in the Student Center Auditorium. A reception and book signing immediately follow the lecture. This event is free and open to the public.

“The Bonobo Handshake” is about Woods’ life in the Congo, where she went in 2005 to be with her fiancé and to study bonobos, a very rare species of ape and one with which human beings share 98.7 percent of DNA. Woods’ research uncovered facets of bonobo daily life, but it was also a journey of the soul and the heart for Woods. Her book explores the peaceful lifestyle of these rare creatures, and poses some challenging questions about what it means to be human, and what we can learn from a related but different species.

At present, Woods is a research scientist at Duke University, and continues her research in the Congo where she studies both bonobos and chimpanzees. She writes prolifically about her adventures as a research scientist, with three children’s books in addition to “The Bonobo Handshake,” and numerous documentaries for the Discovery Channel and Disney USA.

The Charles D. Tenney lecture series honors the former University vice president and provost, who served from 1952 to 1971. For more information about the University Honors Program, visit http://honors.siuc.edu.