A bonobo from the Great Ape Trust The Great Ape Trust of Iowa in Des Moines and Iowa State University have established what they call the world’s pre-eminent collaboration for the study of primates.

Great Ape Trust founder Ted Townsend and ISU president Gregory Geoffroy signed an agreement Monday that sets the stage for the Trust to become more active in the training of future scientists.

Students and faculty from Iowa State will work side-by-side with the researchers at the Trust as they study the great apes use of language and tools. An assistant professor of anthropology at Iowa State, Jill Pruetz , says that’s a rare educational opportunity.

"To have this sort of opportunity as an undergraduate or even a graduate student," Pruetz says, "you just don’t find this type of situation in very many places in the world at all." Pruetz says students and faculty at ISU will not only work with the world’s best primate researchers – but also the great apes themselves.

"Just to be able to look into the eyes of a great ape and see how similar it is to a human, I think, is a very revealing experience," Pruetz says. The Trust recently helped fund Pruetz’s field work with chimpanzees in Senegal. She says this formal collaboration agreement will help both ISU and the Trust win more federal research grants.