Executive Staff   |   Research/Care Staff    |   Conservation Staff    |    Board 

Executive Staff

Co-Founder, President & Director of Research

Penny received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from Stanford University where, as a graduate student in 1972, she began working with one-year-old gorilla Koko, thus beginning the longest ongoing interspecies communication study ever undertaken. In 1976, Dr. Patterson, Dr. Ronald Cohn, and the late Barbara F. Hiller established the Gorilla Foundation to benefit gorillas living in captivity and those struggling to survive in Africa.  More

Co-Founder Vice President, Treasurer & Chief Media Documentarian

Ron shares Penny's life-long commitment to the gorillas. He serves as an authority figure for Koko and his presence is an integral part of their daily routine. His award winning photos and videos of the gorillas have helped to make the Gorilla Foundation  well-known around the world. He received a Ph.D. from the Univ. of Illinois, and was a cell biologist at the Stanford Depts. of Medicine and Pediatrics where he did research in genetic engineering.  More

Development Director

Jane has spent more than 25 years in development and fundraising over several countries and continents. Jane recently joined The Gorilla Foundation as Development Director returning to onsite fundraising after 6 years as a fundraising consultant. As a Senior Vice President with Graham-Pelton Consulting, Jane began by providing leadership to growth initiatives in Europe. She then moved to the United States and continued working with clients initially on the East coast and then more recently providing leadership and counsel on the West Coast.  More

Director of Finance and Human Resources

Janis earned a degree in nursing and worked in adult and neonatal critical care for 12 years as a registered nurse, before raising her family and then redirecting her focus to veterinary care and office management.  Before coming to The Gorilla Foundation, Janis worked for several local veterinary hospitals, including the non-profit Nine Lives Foundation, where she was assistant to the chief veterinarian as well as their office manager and bookkeeper. She now focuses all her energy on the well-being of the Gorilla Foundation's finances and  team.  More


Research / Care Staff

Associate Director of Research and Care
Christa returned to The Gorilla Foundation after a multi-year hiatus (taking care of her family) to help The Gorilla Foundation advance its plans in both gorilla care and research  while supporting great ape conservation and education.  She has a combination of management, care, teaching and interspecies communication research experience (working directly with gorillas Koko and Ndume) and a background in bioengineering, conducting space-based research and development projects.  More

Assisting Gorilla Caregiver/Operations Team

Anne was inspired to enter the field of animal care and conservation ever since she saw a photo of Koko on the cover of National Geographic. She graduated from Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington with degrees in Primate Behavior & Ecology and Psychology, and with a knowledge of American Sign Language.  She then became a primary caregiver for the sign-language proficient chimpanzees living in Ellensburg at the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute, as well as a Veterinary Assistant dedicated to compassionate care.   More

Gorilla Caregiver / Research Assistant
Anthony essentially grew up with Koko. As Ron Cohn's foster child, he met Koko as a small child, and developed a good relationship with her. Thus it was only natural then, when Anthony graduated from high school, he would want to "work" for her.  As Evening Monitor, Anthony helps with all aspects of gorilla care and technology, and provides emotional support to both the gorillas and the founders. Anthony is interested in multimedia game development and hopes to apply this technology to benefit gorillas.  More

Gorilla Caregiver / Researcher
Elise received degrees in Psychology and Social Science and is currently enrolled at San Francisco State University working towards a degree in Biology with a concentration in Zoology. Elise is thrilled to be able to make a difference in both the care of gorillas Koko and Ndume, and in the effect these gorilla ambassadors are having on the well-being of their entire species.  More

Gorilla Caregiver / Researcher

Lauren received a B.A. in Anthropology from Sonoma State University where she focused on observational primate research.  She studied wild monkeys in the rainforests of Costa Rica and participated in Sonoma State University's Primate Ethology Research Lab, where she conducted a project for the San Francisco Zoo. After graduating,  she taught young children the importance of animal conservation as a zoo camp instructor. She believes that the future success of primate care and conservation relies upon interspecies communication.  More

Sophia Gruskos

Gorilla Caregiver / Researcher

Sophia developed a great love and respect for nature and wildlife at a very young age, studied American Sign Language at the Santa Fe Community College and later received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of New Mexico majoring in psychology, with an emphasis in primatology. She has participated in behavioral research and observations for both captive and wild species of primates. Sophia believes that Koko and Ndume are ambassadors not only for their own species, but also for generations of young people.More

Gorilla Caregiver / Researcher

Molly received a Bachelor of Science in Primate Behavior and Ecology and a Bachelor of Art in Anthropology from Central Washington University. She also received training at the Chimpanzee Human Communication Institute in Washington, home to a family of chimpanzees who use American Sign Language. She was therefore well-prepared to communicate with Koko and Ndume and looks forward to applying her skills to accelerate the trend towards communication-based conservation and care.  More

Gorilla Caregiver / Researcher

Brooke studied Animal Science as an undergraduate at the University of Delaware, learning about the basics of animal physiology, anatomy, behavior, and husbandry.  She has always dreamed of being able to communicate with animals.  Brooke went on to earn her Master’s degree in Animal Science from the University of Delaware, moved to the Bay Area from Pennsylvania in late 2015 and joined the Gorilla Foundation in 2016. Brooke is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with Koko and Penny to increase our understanding of interspecies communication and its impact on those involved. More

Gorilla Caregiver / Researcher

Konner’s interest in animal conservation and primatology started at a young age when he first saw the PBS documentary A Conversation with Koko.  He focused his studies on Anthropology at the University of California, Davis where he completed an honors thesis on the genetic origins of Laotian long-tailed macaques.  Upon graduation, Konner worked as a lab assistant at the university's molecular anthropology lab, then volunteered at The Gorilla Foundation for 6 months before being hired as a full-time Gorilla Caregiver/Researcher.   More

Conservation Team

Consulting Director of Conservation

Dr. Rose is an applied social psychologist and organization developer. He has studied macaques, humans, and other apes, and advised government agencies and private foundations on issues of forest management, military diplomacy, religious community development, educational innovation, and health care QA.   Tony's oversight of Gorilla Foundation's conservation education program in Africa has made it possible for the Foundation's unique empathy-building approach to take root.   More



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The Gorilla Foundation /
1733 Woodside Rd., Suite 330
Redwood City, CA, 94061
1-800-ME-GO-APE (634-6273)

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Our mission is to learn about gorillas by communicating with them, and apply our knowledge to advance great ape conservation, education, care and empathy.

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