Becky Cliffe is currently studying sloths for her PhD under the supervision of Professor Rory Wilson in the Biosciences department at Swansea University. She has a first class honours degree in Zoology from the University of Manchester, and has been based at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica for 5 years. Since 2010 she has completed the first in-depth research project into captive sloth biology and is now spearheading a long term investigation into the ecology of wild sloths through The Sloth Backpack Project.
Her current work involves monitoring the behaviour and activity of wild sloths using “Daily Diary” data loggers. These devices are combined with VHF radio transmitters and GPS tags in specially designed ‘sloth backpacks’ that are attached to hand-sewn harnesses. Through the use of these backpacks, Becky is hoping to gain a better understanding of the sloths daily behaviour patterns including their diet, habitat preference, ranging patterns and mating systems. She hopes that this work will lead to the development of a release program that will allow hand-reared sloths to be safely returned to the wild for the first time.
With generous help from the public, Becky raised $93,879 in 60 days through her first crowdfunding campaign to fund the necessary tracking equipment to complete her research and develop a release program for the Sloth Sanctuary. She is now leading a new campaign to fund a genetic study looking at the cause of malformations in sloths.
Whilst working on her research in Costa Rica last year, Becky was unfortunately diagnosed with Leishmaniasis; a tropical flesh-eating parasite. More can be read about that misadventure on her blog.
Since she has been working with sloths, Becky has featured in the award winning documentary ‘Too cute! Baby Sloths’ for Animal Planet, and in 2013 she also presented the eight episode sloth series ‘Meet the Sloths’ for Discovery Channel.
In her spare time, Becky writes a regular blog documenting her adventures and research progress on her personal website (http://beckycliffe.com), and she also blogs on all aspects of sloth science for the conservation and news network Earth Touch.
- Cliffe, R. N., Avey-Arroyo, J. A., Arroyo, F. J., Holton, M. D., & Wilson, R. P. (2014). Mitigating the squash effect: sloths breathe easily upside down. Biology letters, 10(4), 20140172.
- Ishibashi, S., Cliffe, R., & Amaya, E. (2012) Highly efficient bi-allelic mutation rates using TALENs in Xenopus tropicalis. Biology Open, 1 – 4. doi:10.1242/bio.20123228.
- Cliffe, R. (2012) Sloths: Life in the slow lane. The Biological Sciences Review, volume 25, issue 2.