Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
My primary research interest is in the distribution and behavior of unstudied populations of great apes across Africa’s Congo Basin, in particular of chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes. At every new site where chimpanzees have been studied, they have been found to possess site-specific suites of behavioral traits, argued to represent cultural diversity. Large tracts of forests, particularly in the Northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, remain unexplored, and it is unknown whether or not they are inhabited by apes, or if so, how many apes. By conducting systematic surveys using line transects as well as recces and presence / absence data, we can develop a clearer picture of the distribution of African great apes in these hitherto unexplored forests.
In addition, I seek to understand the distribution of ape traditions, how they map onto genetic diversity, and how they are affected by proposed ape barriers such as rivers. Understanding where the apes live and how their behaviors are similar to or different from those of other populations is a crucial tool in assuring their survival, and also has much to tell us about our own biological and cultural evolution.
|Name||Thurston Cleveland Hicks|
|Nationality||United States of America|
|Date of birth||February 21, 1972|
|Born in Raleigh, North Carolina|
|Research interests||Distribution, conservation status, and behavioral ecology of the African great apes; African great ape behavioral diversity.|
|2020 – Present||Guest researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture.|
|2010 – 2019||Guest researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Department of Primatology.|
|2004 – 2010||PhD Thesis, University of Amsterdam. “A Chimpanzee Mega-Culture? Exploring behavioral continuity in Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii across northern DR Congo”. [Link]. In order to complete this thesis, I spent two and a half years in the field in DR Congo studying the Bili-Uele chimpanzees.|
|2001 – 2004||Master’s thesis, Central Washington University: "Chimpanzee Tool Use in the Ngotto Forest, Central African Republic,” based on the data I collected during my 2001–2002 field expedition to the Ngotto Forest, CAR.|
|1990 – 1994||Undergraduate studies: NC State University and University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (I graduated from the latter with a degree in Anthropology).|
NCN grant awarded to Thurston C. Hicks of The Faculty of Artes Liberales, 2018: Badanie kultury materialnej szympansow w wschodniej DR Konga. (A Survey of Chimpanzee Material Culture in Eastern DR Congo). Konkurz OPUS 13. DEC-2017/25/B/NZ8/02730. A 3-year research project with a Ph.D. student focused on chimpanzee behavior in the Ituri Forest, DR Congo.
|US Fish and Wildlife grant awarded:||The Future of the Bili Ape: Distribution, Protection, and Awareness on a Regional and National Level. 2012-2013.|
|Principle Investigator:||Dr. Thurston C. Hicks|
|Under the Great Ape Conservation Act of 2000 (USC 6303), Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 / Congo Basin Forest Partnership|
Project Coordinator Bili-Uere Survey Project 2012
A collaboration between MPI-EVA & Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, with assistance from African Wildlife Foundation.
Field and laboratory research experience
|2004 – 2013||Lead Scientific Director and Field Camp Manager for the Bili Apes Project, DRC. I followed the local chimpanzees and recorded feeding, nesting, and tool-use behaviors, as well as conducted transect and recce nest surveys. In total we surveyed an area encompassing approximately 35,000 km² of previously uncharted forests and savannas. We also documented an exploding chimpanzee bushmeat crisis to the south of Bili.|
|2002||Summer Apprentice, Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, Ellensberg, Washington. During this period and during my subsequent graduate studies, I received basic training in animal care for the four sign language-using chimpanzees living at the sanctuary / research center, also participating in ongoing behavioral research and becoming sign-reliable for the chimpanzees.|
|2001 – 2002||Chief field researcher and camp manager, Ngotto Field Project, CAR, Friends of Washoe. I conducted behavioral research on chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Through the use of transect surveys, I documented the effects of selective-logging on these two species.|
|1999 – 2001||Field assistant, Mondika Research Station, CAR. I aided in the habituation of a group of western lowland gorillas, collecting data on their diet and behavior. In addition I managed the camp during the absence of the scientific director.|
|1998 – 1999||Research assistant, Project Bonobo – In-Situ, collecting behavioral data on bonobos (Pan paniscus) at the Planckendael Zoo, Belgium.|
|1995 – 1998||Research assistant, Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico, collecting and entering daily behavioral data on the island’s free-ranging rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). In addition, I participated in the yearly 2-month trapping season.|
|1994 – 1995||Research assistant, Duke Primate Center, Durham, North Carolina, collecting behavioral data on free-ranging ring- tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). I compiled matrices of the dominance hierarchies for two social groups and participated in monthly trappings and weighings.|
|1993||Field assistant, University of North Carolina Archaeological Dig, Mississippi, during which time I received training in archaeological excavation and participated in the unearthing of ancient Native American artifacts.|
|1990 – 1991||Research and field assistant, North Carolina Museum of Natural History, cleaning and preserving dinosaur fossils at the museum. I participated in the Wyoming Dinosaur Expedition in the summer of 1991.|
Oral presentations at national and international symposia
|2018||Hicks T. C. (2018). “Chimpanzee technology in Northern DR Congo: A comparison of behaviors between savanna mosaic and moist tropical forest habitats.” Oral presentation at the International Primatological Society, Congress XXVII, in Nairobi, Kenya. August 20, 2018.|
Hicks T. C. (2018). “Specialized chimpanzee technology in Northern DR Congo.” Seminar lecture at Cent Lecture Center, Wild Urban Evolution and Ecology Lab in Warsaw, Poland. June 13 2018.
|2017||Hicks T. C. (2017). “The Bili-Uéré Chimpanzee Behavioral Realm of Northern DR Congo.” Oral presentation at the Polish Society for Human and Evolution Studies in Krakow, Poland. September 21, 2017.|
|2016||Hicks T. C. (2016). “It’s a Matter of Taste: Chimpanzee Cultural Realms in the Congo.” Oral presentation, Tedx Warsaw Talk, University of Warsaw. May 28, 2016.|
|2015||Hicks TC, Kühl H, Roessingh P, Boesch C, Hart J & Menken SBJ. February 11 2015. Poster presentation at the German Federation of Primatology conference in Leipzig, Germany. Tool use by Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii is not dependent on abundance of insect prey in Northern DR Congo.|
Hicks TC, Kühl H, Roessingh P, Boesch C, Hart J & Menken SBJ.25-28 August 2015. Oral presentation at the European federation of Primatologists in Rome, Italy: Tool use by Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii is not dependent on abundance of insect prey in Northern DR Congo.
Hicks TC, Kühl H, Roessingh P, Boesch C, Hart J & Menken SBJ. December 2 2015. Oral presentation at the Primate Society of Great Britain, London Zoological Society. Tool use by Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii is not dependent on abundance of insect prey in Northern DR Congo.
Hicks TC. Explorations of a Threatened Chimpanzee Culture in Northern NR Congo. November 30 2015. Oral presentation at the Faculty of ‘Artes Liberales’ at the University of Warsaw and (via satellite link) The Collaboratory, Rutgers University.
|2014||Kühl H & Hicks TCH. 19 May 2014. Humans and African Apes – An Uneasy Coexistence. At ‘Humans and Nonhuman Primates – Crossing the Boundaries’. The Faculty of ‘Artes Liberales’ University of Warsaw.|
Organizer, with Maureen McCarthy and Jack Lester, The Chimpanzee-Human Interface: Symposium at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig. July 10-11, 2014. Presented here the talk: Impact of humans on long-distance communication behavior in eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in Northern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
|2013||Hicks, Thurston C., Sandra Tranquilli, Hjalmar Kuehl, Genevieve Campbell, Jeroen Swinkels, Laura Darby, Christophe Boesch, John Hart, and Steph BJ Menken 2013. "A Large, Continuous, and Stable Population of Eastern Chimpanzees Inhabits the Forests of Northern DR Congo."Abstract for presentation at the European federation of Primatologists 2013 conference in Antwerp, Belgium. In FOLIA PRIMATOLOGICA, vol. 84, no. 3-5, pp. 286-287. ALLSCHWILERSTRASSE 10, CH-4009 BASEL, SWITZERLAND: KARGER, 2013.|
Hicks TC. MSc Primate Conservation, Oxford Brookes University. December 2 2013. Oral presentation at The Primate Conservation Seminar. "Discovery of a large, continuous population of Eastern chimpanzees in the Uele region of Northern DR Congo".
|2010||“A Mega-Culture? Behavioral continuity in the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) of northern DR Congo.” International Primatological Society Congress XXIII, Kyoto, Japan. 17 September.|
|2010||“A Chimpanzee Mega-Culture? Behavioral continuity in the chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) of northern DR Congo.” The Symposium of Tropical Ecology, the University of Amsterdam. 22 October.|
|2009||“Exploration of a chimpanzee Mega-Culture in DR Congo.”16th PhD Day, Wageningen, The Netherlands. 10 December.|
|2009||“Explorations of a threatened chimpanzee ‘Mega-Culture’ in the northern DR Congo.” The Burgers Zoo, The Netherlands. March.|
|2007||“Apes in Congo”. IBED Day, The University of Amsterdam, Hoge Veluwe, The Netherlands. 13 September.|
|2006||“Beyond the speculation - Just what are the Bili apes?” International Primatological Society Congress XXI, Entebbe, Uganda. 29 June.|
|2006||“Some images of the Bili apes.” International Primatological Society Congress XXI, Entebbe, Uganda. 29 June.|
|2005||“The Bili apes – Are they special?” The European Federation of Primatologists conference in Göttingen, Germany. 12 August.|
|2004||“Chimpanzee tool use in the Ngotto Forest, Central African Republic.” The Rocky Mountain Pyschological Association conference, Reno, Nevada. April.|
|2004||“Nest construction by chimpanzees and gorillas in the Ngotto Forest, Central African Republic.” The Third Central Washington University Graduate Student and Faculty Conference. (Together with Dr. Roger Fouts I received an Outstanding Student Presentation Award for this talk). 6 May.|
|2014-present||Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of ‘Artes Liberales’, The University of Warsaw. Classes: ‘Culture Beyond Homo sapiens’, ‘Humankind’s Place in Nature’, ‘Humans and their Great Ape Cousins’, ‘Humans as Great Apes’ (co-taught with professor Fran Bartkowski of Rutger’s University).|
|2014-2015||Supervised Master’s student Igor Siedlecki on his research project at the Warsaw Zoo for the University of Warsaw. Diploma received in 2015.|
|2002 – 2004||Docent at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute’s Chimposium. I served as Presenter/Observer Guide for this program, informing visitors about chimpanzee behavior and conservation (including the threat of the bushmeat trade) and introducing visitors to the chimpanzees for brief visits.|
Hicks TC & Fouts R, 2004. Winner of Outstanding Student Presentation Award the Third Central Washington University Graduate Student and Faculty Conference. Chimpanzee Tool Use in the Ngotto Forest, Central African Republic.
Hicks TC, Roessing P & Menken SBJ. 2015. Winner of the AH Schultz Award for Best Paper (Folia Primatologica / Primate Society of Great Britain). For the article: "Impact of Humans on Long-Distance Communication Behaviour of Eastern Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in the Northern Democratic Republic of the Congo." 2013. Folia Primatologica 84.3: 135-156.
|Languages||English native speaker, fluent in French and Spanish, conversational in Lingala, Sangho and Babenzele. German and Dutch – works in progress!|
Author and illustrator of the children’s book about conservation ‘A Rhino to the Rescue: A Tale of Conservation and Adventure’ (2017). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Jhz8IIyfM&t=172s
|Plumptre A, Rose R, Nagnendo G, Williamson E, Didier K, Hart J, Mulindahabi F, Hicks C, Griffin B, Ogawa H, Nixon S, Pintea L, Vosper A, McLennan M, Amsini F, McNeilage A, Makana J. R, Kanamori M, Hernandez A, Piel A, Stewart F, Moore J, Zamma K, Nakamura M, Kamenya S, Idani G, Saka T, Yoshikawa M, Greer D, Tranquilli S., Beyers R, & Bennett, E. (2010). Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for the Eastern Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), 2010-2020. IUCN, Gland, Witzerland.|
|Hicks T. C, Fouts R & Fouts D. (2009). A survey of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes troglodytes) and gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in the selectively-logged Ngotto Forest, The Central African Republic. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2: 165-188. |
|Hicks T. C, Fouts R & Fouts D. (2005). Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) tool use in the Ngotto Forest, Central African Republic. American Journal of Primatology 65:221-237.|
2016 Tedx Talk: It’s A Matter of Taste: Chimpanzee Culture in Congo. University of Warsaw, May 28, 206.
2016 NBC TV documentary (On Assignment with Richard Engel) on the Bili Chimpanzees:
Max Planck press release on the Bili chimpanzees
Guardian article on large population of chimpanzees in northern DRC
Wasmoeth Wildlife Foundation website, e-books about the Bili chimpanzees, by T. C. Hicks:
IPPL Newletter articles by T. C. Hicks about the chimpanzee victims of the Northern DRC bushmeat trade:
IBED (Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics), University of Amsterdam, report on the Bili chimpanzees:
Een Vandaag: The Bili Chimpanzees:
Article from The Guardian on the chimpanzee bushmeat crisis in Northern DRC:
IBED feature on Cleve Hicks' work (Jan 2011):
Time Magazine piece (Lost Apes of the Congo) on the 2004-2005 Bili field season: