Faculty Seed Grant for Tecot

Headshot of Associate Professor Stacey TecotCongratulations to Stacey Tecot, SoA Associate Professor and Director of the Laboratory for the Evolutionary Endocrinology of Primates! Dr. Tecot just received a Faculty Seed Grant of $15,000 for a project with collaborators Ash Black, Director of Tech.Global (now Tech Core, in the Eller College of Management), and Dr. Rachel Jacobs, a Forensic Scientist-Morphology at the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab. The project is titled Adapting facial recognition software for biodiversity censusing and long-term monitoring of lemurs.

Project description: The lemurs of Madagascar are one of the most unique, diverse, and threatened mammals in the world. Yet, our knowledge on the behavior, ecology, and conservation of many of these species is limited due to challenges in collecting long-term data on known individuals. Current methods anesthetize, capture, and collar individuals, which can risk the health and lives of already endangered species. We propose to build on our existing face recognition system for identifying lemurs and develop it into a mobile application for use in Madagascar. This tool will non-invasively, rapidly, and accurately identify individual lemurs in real-time, and facilitate research where individuals must be known and tracked by multiple researchers and assistants, as well as provide multiple benefits to lemur species conservation. First, it would enable long-term monitoring of individuals to obtain important data on behavior and ecology, as well as survival, reproduction, and dispersal patterns. This information is critical for evolutionary studies and understanding population growth and decline over time. Second, it would provide more precise population estimates than traditional censusing methods, with lower risk of under- or over-counting. Third, it would provide an interactive platform to enhance connections to biodiversity for tourists and local communities. Finally, it would provide a potential law enforcement tool for monitoring a growing threat to lemur populations: capture for the national pet trade. (Anthro News date: 6/21/2019)