When I went on my first expedition to study chimpanzees, in what is today Gombe Stream National Park, I wasn't permitted to travel by myself. Local administrators didn't want to be responsible for a young woman alone in the bush. They insisted I bring a companion. So my mom, Vanne, volunteered to come to Tanzania.
The first few weeks, I was very worried because the chimps would flee as soon as they saw me. I knew if I didn't discover something important before my grant ran out, that would be the end of the project. It was wonderful to have Vanne there; she kept my spirits up, pointing out all the things I was learning about the chimps from a distance, and entertaining me with stories about the local people she was meeting while I was in the field. Three months after we arrived, we both got malaria. But Vanne never complained once. —As told to Michael Shapiro