Monday, March 6, 2017

URSP Student Ashley Fortner Continues to Investigate the Effectiveness of Programs Monitoring Endangered Red Panda

Last fall, I began my research working with Dr. Elizabeth Freeman to investigate the effectiveness of two technology programs in monitoring behavior in the endangered red panda. The first program records the time that the red panda spends in the nest box and the second records desired behaviors based on the data we want to collect. My project produced very exciting results because we found that the application created to monitor time spent in the nest box could record that time as accurately as someone doing it by hand! With the success of this application, this semester my focus is to continue to test this application to validate its success and if time possibly start working on the second application.

While the second application is being developed, I am continuing to run the videos from the 2015 and 2016 birth season through the first application to validate its effectiveness and score behaviors by hand in an excel sheet. Although scoring the videos is time consuming, I have perfected my behavior monitoring skills and I enjoy getting to use them at the National Zoo where I volunteer with the Asian elephants. I never realized how essential it is to understand and interpret behavior in an animal keeper position, and I am excited to improve that skill through this project.

One thing that I have discovered this semester is that this project has developed more of my skills than I initially realized. On top of the behavior monitoring skills, I have experience creating behavior monitoring reports and documents that have the potential to be published or used in an animal keeping facility. I also can say that I have managed large data sets and I hope I can contribute them to conservation practices one day. I am excited to see what kind of progress I can make this semester on the project and to continue to still be a part of this project once I graduate in May!