Genetic studies have opened up opportunity to study chimpanzee social structure, mate selection, and population dynamics and structure. Each morning chimpanzees leave behind traces or fresh use of a nest: faecal or urine below, and hairs within, the nest. Faecal samples may also be found opportunistically, or by tracking chimpanzee parties. These samples provide much information about the chimpanzees when used for genetic analyses.  For example: sex, individual identity, paternity, maternity, and degree of relatedness, which provides otherwise unattainable demographic and behavioural data about the Ugalla chimpanzees.

Fiona collecting
Fiona adds to the chimpanzee faecal collection database! (September 2014, credit Alecia Carter)

Genetic studies have been used to widely survey chimpanzee areas and specifically in Ugalla, will investigate whether the social structure of savanna chimpanzees differs from their forest cousins (see D. Moore). Genetic studies can also reveal historical population expansion and retraction and current community boundaries. At Issa, all fresh faecal samples are collected not only to explore SIVcpz prevalence and parasite infection, but also to investigate nest building, association patterns, and movements of individuals across the Issa study area.

Genetics played a pivotal role in the current GME survey being by Piel and Stewart in2011-2012, where it provided data on the above topics (infections), but also helped more accurately census chimpanzees, historic gene flow, and population structure.