PhD Researcher, Swansea University

Becky Cliffe is a British zoologist working at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica, currently studying for her PhD under the supervision of Professor Rory Wilson at Swansea University. She 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. 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.

Becky found herself fascinated by the natural world at a very young age and much of her childhood was spent outdoors, searching for weird and wonderful creatures to add to her various ‘bug boxes’. This fascination really became apparent at the tender age of seven, when she proudly presented her parents with the rotting remains of a dead squirrel and pleaded with them to find out why it had died. Needless to say, they quickly realised she was a budding biologist in the making.

As her passion for wildlife grew, she left the squirrel behind and began studying zoology at the University of Manchester. During this time she became intrigued by the unusual and poorly understood biology of sloths. Following this interest, she began a 12 month research placement at the Sloth Sanctuary of Costa Rica where she studied the activity budgets, thermoregulation, diets and oestrous cycles of three-fingered sloths. Through the guidance and expertise of Judy Avey-Arroyo, she quickly discovered that there was a substantial lack of scientific data for sloths, and this was causing considerable problems for the conservation of the species. After graduating from Manchester with a first class honours degree, she returned to the Sloth Sanctuary where she began to study for her PhD through Swansea University.

Her work now focuses on identifying the diet, habitat preference, ranging patterns and reproductive systems of wild two and three-fingered sloths. With generous help from the public, Becky raised $93,879 in 60 days through the ‘Save Our Sloths‘ campaign to fund the necessary data loggers and tracking equipment to complete this project and develop a release program for the Sloth Sanctuary. She is also running multiple additional research projects looking at the metabolic rate, physiology, and genetic diversity of wild sloth populations throughout Costa Rica and Panama.

Since she has been working with sloths, Becky has featured in the award winning documentary ‘Meet the Sloths’ & ‘Too cute! Baby Sloths' for Animal Planet, was a major contributor for the eight episode Discovery Channel series 'Meet the Sloths’ which aired in November 2013, and she has featured in ‘Ocean Mysteries with Jeff Corwin‘. She regularly gives lectures to university students and her work has been featured in several international publications including BBC Wildlife Magazine and Ranger Rick.

Experience

  • –present
    PhD Researcher, Swansea University