Jess Hartel


Jess grew up on a small family farm in the Kansas City Northland, which is where her love of nature and animals began. From an early age, Jess was fascinated with chimpanzees and their similarities to humans. In later years, she studied their behavior in both captive and wild settings while actively working to conserve them, their habitat, and other species. Jess is interested in applying her wildlife conservation toolkit to urban settings to help preserve and protect biodiverse habitats that provide environmental, social, cultural, and economic benefits to surrounding human populations. If people can see and experience the value of natural habitats in metro areas, this can fundamentally transform the way humans view and interact with nature both locally and globally.

In addition to her work with HCA, Jess also serves as the Director of Conservation and board member for the Kibale Chimpanzee Project (non-profit) in Kibale National Park Uganda.  She directs conservation programs and educational outreach campaigns that mitigate anthropogenic threats to chimpanzees and other wildlife in the area. Jess is also a part-time instructor of Biology and Anthropology at the Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City and remotely at the University of North Georgia. 

Jess received her Ph.D. in Integrative and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Southern California for her research on aggression and conciliatory behavior in wild chimpanzees. Jess then completed a post-doc at Aarhus University in Denmark that focused on how long-term field sites provide conservation benefits to biodiversity and habitats while also creating a primatology curriculum for school children for the Danish Royal Academy of Sciences. Jess also has her M.S. in Experimental Psychology from Central Washington University where she studied captive chimpanzees who use sign language at the Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute and her B.S. degrees in both Biology and Anthropology from Missouri State University. 

“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” ~ Jane Goodall