Learning to Appreciate Life, Being Human


Michel Waller is using current primate behavior to piece together an understanding of early humans. Waller, biological anthropologist and professor at Central Oregon Community College, studies the human condition using an evolutionary framework to discover what people could have been like in early stages of human life.

Waller has studied biological anthropology for 15 years began his career due to his love of travel. He realized he really cared about conservation,

“As I started to (travel and experience other cultures) the more I became interested in conservation,” Waller said. “I would go to all these really cool places but there would be very few of the native animals left.”


This experience led him to pursue a field where conservation could be a primary focus and the opportunity to travel to africa, where he could study chimpanzees, was presented to him.

“I got to travel, I got to experience the culture, and I got to do some real tangible conservation related work,” Waller said.

Today, after his travels to Africa, Waller is still studying chimpanzees and sharing his knowledge with others. On Feb. 20, Waller spoke to a group of interns at Chimps inc. about the similarities between humans and primates. Chimps Inc. is a non profit organization that houses chimpanzees and other animals who were previously owned by people and abused, abandoned or kept as circus and sideshow entertainment.

While striving to gain a better understanding of the human condition, Waller studies bonobos and chimpanzees since they are human’s closest genetic relative. Despite the physical similarities between bonobos and chimpanzees, they have very different  personalities which could explain the different personalities in humans. Humans have an equal genetic connection to chimpanzees and bonobos and it is important to study both when learning more about the human condition, according to Waller.

As a professor, Waller strives to teach his students to appreciate life and their place in the world.

“Even if you aren’t going to become a Biological anthropologist this information will force you to ask some serious questions about your perspective of humanity,” said Waller. These questions are important to ask, according to Waller who tries to keep his classes as welcoming and open as possible so that class discussions can lead to those questions. Similar to the open discussions of the subject, the classes themselves are not strictly lecture but also combinations of hands-on lab work with the possibility of field trips.

Despite his years of experience, Waller is still learning and thoroughly enjoying it and hopes to spread his knowledge and love of learning to those students willing to partake in his classes.


Allie Kasari | The Broadside

(Contact: akasari@cocc.edu)


First annual Chimps Inc. book drive

Chimps Inc. provides a safe and healthy sanctuary for chimps in Central Oregon. Help feed and shelter rescued chimps by donating your used textbooks.

Bring your books to Modoc 106 or contact Michel Waller or Sara Evans and they will arrange a time and place to accept your donation.


Michel Waller


541-383-7701 x 2619


Sara Evans




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