Sue Margulis believes that zoos make an important contribution in educating the public about wild animals.

Over her 25-year career working in zoos, Sue Weinberg Margulis ’82 has cared for and studied rodents, birds, deer, and other mammals, but she has always had an affinity for primates.

She began her studies working with Japanese snow monkeys under the tutelage of Doug Candland, professor emeritus of psychology. These days, she is curator of primates at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, home to 24 great apes and 50 smaller primates, including swamp monkeys, marmosets, langurs, and gibbons.

Margulis was lured to Lincoln Park from Chicago’s suburban Brookfield Zoo by the opening in 2004 of Lincoln Park Zoo’s $26 million Regenstein Center for African Apes. She also has charge of the adjacent Helen Brach Primate House. Both feature large, naturalistic habitats.

Curious children always ask Margulis if she plays with the animals all day. While she does spend a considerable amount of time working with the primates, she also has more mundane responsibilities, such as securing funding and managing budgets. Margulis believes that zoos make an important contribution in educating the public about wild animals, and she enjoys working on the zoo’s numerous education programs.

In recent years, the zoo’s programs have expanded beyond one-day field trips for elementary school students to include older teens, who now can serve as junior docents. Margulis says she always recommends Bucknell to those interested in studying animal behavior.

She continues her affiliation with the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, where she earned her doctorate, by sponsoring graduate students conducting research at the zoo. Her own research, with collaborator Dr. Sylvia Atsalis, on reproductive aging in gorillas has yielded groundbreaking news: Gorillas go through menopause.

The insight has practical applications for the healthcare of gorillas in zoos, where they often live 15 to 20 years longer than in the wild. It also has significant implications for our understanding of evolution, Margulis notes.

Posted Winter 2008

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