Orangutans Inspire Major Psychology Project

Orangutans Inspire Major Psychology Project
Dr Emma Collier-Baker working with orangutans in Sumatra in 2010
Orangutans Inspire Major Psychology Project - A UQ researcher will spend part of the next three years working in Indonesia to better understand the comparative psychology of orangutans and children.

Dr Emma Collier-Baker from the School of Psychology will depart for Jakarta next month to commence a joint venture between UQ and Universitas Indonesia (UI) which will see her split her time between Brisbane and Jakarta.

Dr Collier-Baker is a comparative psychologist who has been investigating the mental capacities of children, great apes and other species for the last 10 years.

She has experience conducting behavioural research with captive primates in various institutions in Australia and around the world, and last year returned from five months of field work funded by an Endeavour Research Fellowship observing wild orangutans in the rainforest of Sumatra. In 2006, Dr Collier-Baker was awarded a prestigious Queensland–Smithsonian Fellowship to conduct research within the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington DC.

Her goal in Indonesia will be to develop a primate cognition and child development laboratory, conducting non-invasive behavioural research with orangutans and other primates at the nearby Schmutzer Primate Centre in Jakarta, and with children in a pre-school centre at the university campus.

Dr Collier-Baker said a major aim of the project was to see Indonesian students and staff become involved in the rapidly growing research field of comparative cognition.

“They are ideally placed to do so in a country which is home to many primate species, including Asia's only great ape – the orangutan,” she said.

“I hope that with more Indonesian researchers involved in comparative psychology we will not only see new contributions to our knowledge but to conservation efforts, by raising the profile of critically endangered species like the orangutan.”

Students from UQ will also gain the opportunity to work on comparative cognition, child development and cross-cultural projects with Dr Collier-Baker in Indonesia.

With a view to capacity building, Dr Collier-Baker will work to enhance the research and teaching activities of the Faculty of Psychology at UI by presenting research workshops for staff and students.

For more information on orangutan conservation and to get involved in the Australian Orangutan Project, visit http://www.orangutan.org.au/


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