Joanne Tanner's Biography
Dr. Joanne Tanner became interested in some of the “big questions” about the
evolution of language when she began to work as a volunteer companion to the
sign-language using gorilla Koko in 1980. At that time she already had a
Bachelor’s degree in music performance (1965) from Oberlin College. She returned
to school in 1989 as a graduate student and teaching assistant in anthropology
at UC Santa Cruz with
Dr. Adrienne Zihlman,
and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in
Evolutionary Psychology, awarded in 1998 from the University of St. Andrews in
Dr. Richard Byrne as advisor. Dr. Tanner’s research is on the
untaught gestural communication of the
gorillas at the San Francisco Zoo. Dr. Tanner
has taught Primate Behavior as a temporary lecturer at UCSC, andcontinued to
research and write, publishing journal articles and a book chapter (see
list of publications).
Her research at the San Francisco Zoo has been featured as a part of two
National Geographic specials in a series called "Who's Aping Who?" and has also been noted in a Discovery Channel
show, "Conversations with
Koko." Please see the Publications page for Dr. Tanner’s most recent publications.
As well as being appreciative of the input of many mentors over the
years, Joanne is extremely grateful for the continuing collaboration of husband
Charles L. Ernest, who has been cameraman, video editor, and computer
troubleshooter for nearly 20 years.