By Kathy Quirk
Gay Reinartz spends much of her time a half a world away from Milwaukee, working at a remote research station in a vast rain forest in the heart of the Congo Basin. There is no plumbing, running water or electrical service, and the closest medical facility is several days’ travel via pirogue (dugout canoe).
All that is a measure of the passion the UWM alumna (’97 PhD Biological Sciences) has for her work with bonobos, an endangered primate species related to chimpanzees. Unlike chimpanzees and other great apes, however, bonobos are found only in a narrow range in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Reinartz, a scientist with the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, leads the Bonobo and Congo Biodiversity Initiative (BCBI). She spends six months a year in one of the most biologically diverse areas of Africa, the Salonga National Park. The park is a World Heritage Site and the only national park in the DRC currently designated for protection of the bonobo and the highly threatened forest elephant.
Her passion for the work is a mix of genuine affection for bonobos and scientific interest, and her research focuses on documenting and protecting bonobos as well as studying the environmental characteristics that influence their abundance and distribution. Reinartz is entranced by the intelligent, gentle ape, one of man’s closest relatives.
“They’re extremely smart, curious and playful, and they display a remarkable sense of humor.”
Credentials and opportunity
Reinartz was working at the Zoological Society when she decided to return to school for her doctorate focusing on population genetics and evolutionary biology. More....