Cheryl is a biological anthropologist who studies and works to protect the wild orangutans of Borneo.  She directs the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project, focused on scientifi more

Cheryl is a biological anthropologist who studies and works to protect the wild orangutans of Borneo. 

She directs the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project, focused on scientific research and community conservation to protect wild orangutans and their habitat. She earned her PhD in Anthropology from Harvard University in 1999 where she was an Associate Professor until 2008 when she joined the faculty at Boston University. She is also Director of Undergraduate Studies in Anthropology at Boston University and a Core Faculty member in BU’s Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Program.

For more than a quarter of a century, Dr. Knott has been studying wild orangutans in Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park, on the island of Borneo. She is the founder and director of the Gunung Palung Orangutan Project, one of the longest running primate research projects in the world. Her work reveals how orangutan adaptations, such as the longest inter-birth interval of any mammal and the evolution of two adult male morphs, are shaped by their ecology. She pioneered the use of non-invasive techniques to measure orangutan hormones, caloric intake and physiology in the wild. In 2000, she co-founded the Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Project which works to protect this critically endangered species, and their rain forest habitat, through education, public awareness campaigns, population and habitat censuses, sustainable livelihood development, establishment of village-run customary forests, investigation of the illegal pet trade and active engagement with Indonesian government organizations. She was a member of the inaugural class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers in 2014, is the recipient of numerous research and conservation grants from the National Geographic Society and has published over 50 scientific articles. She collaborates with her husband, National Geographic photographer Tim Laman, on creating popular books, articles and films on orangutans to help the public develop a greater appreciation for these magnificent animals. She has written two articles for National Geographic Magazine, focusing on her work on wild orangutans, in August 1998 and October 2003. She was also featured in National Geographic Magazine’s 2016 article Orangutans: Out on a Limb. In addition, she has been featured on National Geographic Explorer television Show, Nat Geo Wild’s Mission Critical: Orangutans program and has spoken for the National Geographic Live! lecture series. She is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and other forums on orangutans, great apes, and rainforest conservation.

Cheryl and her husband Tim live with their two children, Russell and Jessica, in Lexington, Massachusetts.


Cheryl Knott, Anthropologist (EG12)


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