ISR: Two-Toed Sloth Vigilance

Hannah Stewart’s ISR led her to work collaboratively with George Mason University professor Dr. Brian Griffiths on his study of two-toed sloth behavior in the Peruvian Amazon. Hannah culled data from thousands of photos captured by unmanned camera traps installed at mineral licks, jungle gathering spots for wildlife, to assess sloth behavior. Sloths are arboreal animals and rarely descend to the jungle floor so the rare images were especially worthy of study.
Photos showing different types of sloth activity were tabulated and Hannah’s sorting was crucial to the analysis. The scientists were most interested in displays of vigilant behavior as an indication of how sloths assess and react to perceived danger. Sloth vigilance can relate to the health of individual animals, the species, and the ecosystem. As the project proceeded, Hannah was especially intrigued by the wealth of data that emerged from seemingly random sloth behavior. “I really like how the patterns that I see in the data can help guide what should be studied by a scientist, or me, in the future,” she said.
Hannah has always loved the sciences and had a particular interest in biology. “This year we learned more about ecology and holistic approaches to science in advanced biology which really drove my passion for this project,” she said. Hannah’s ISR gave her a framework in which to participate in real and ongoing scientific endeavor and neatly dovetails with her plans to study sustainable development in college.
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