My name is Kelly Boyer Ontl. I am a Visiting Assistant Professor at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, where I live with my family.
My research focuses broadly on addressing wildlife conservation in a human dominated landscape in southeastern Senegal. Specifically, I explore behavioral and systemic impacts of artisanal small-scale gold mining on West African chimpanzees.
I have been working in Senegal since 2008, and in 2010 established two field sites at Kharakhena and Bofeto, Senegal. For my Masters degree, I used camera traps and in-direct surveying techniques to study chimpanzee communities facing environmental changes from mining activities. In 2012, southeastern Senegal became the site of an international gold rush and intensive artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) activities. Despite the disruption and dangers that mining has brought, I continue to work closely with the people in Kharakhena, monitoring the chimpanzee communities and studying their behaviors.
My doctoral dissertation research focused on the impacts of ASGM on the ranging behavior and habitat use of chimpanzees at the Fongoli field site in southeastern Senegal. Although ASGM is a global phenomenon, very little has been published on its impacts on terrestrial vertebrates, let alone great apes. Using geospatial statistics and ArcGIS I have compiled and analyzed 10 years of chimpanzee behavioral observations and human-chimpanzee encounter data, collected by Jill Pruetz and her team at the Fongoli Savanna Chimpanzee Project.