Look up!
It’s SlothBot!

High above the Canopy Walk, a slow-moving robot is perched in the treetops to monitor plants, animals and the environment below – all as a test for a new high-tech tool for saving some of the world’s most endangered species.

For the next few months, visitors are able to observe the SlothBot, an energy-efficient robot that lingers in the trees of Storza Woods. Built by robotics engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology to take advantage of the low-energy lifestyle of real sloths, Slothbot demonstrates how being slow can be ideal for certain applications. Powered by solar panels and using innovative power management technology, the robot moves along a cable strung between two large trees as it monitors temperature, weather, carbon dioxide levels and other information.

“SlothBot embraces slowness as a design principle,” said Tech professor Magnus Egerstedt, chair of the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “That’s not how robots are typically designed today, but being slow and hyper-energy efficient will allow SlothBot to linger in the environment to observe things we can only see by being present continuously for months, or even years.”

About three feet long, SlothBot’s whimsical 3-D printed shell helps protect its motors, gearing, batteries and sensing equipment from the weather. The robot is programmed to move only when necessary and will locate sunlight when its batteries need recharging.

“The most exciting goal we’ll demonstrate with SlothBot is the union of robotics and technology with conservation,” said Emily Coffey, the Garden’s Vice President of Conservation & Research. “We do conservation research on imperiled plants and ecosystems around the world, and SlothBot will help us find new and exciting ways to advance our research and conservation goals.”

Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, SlothBot could help scientists better understand factors affecting critical ecosystems, providing a new tool for developing information needed to protect rare species and endangered ecosystems. After testing in the Garden, the researchers hope to move SlothBot to South America to observe orchid pollination or the lives of endangered frogs.

“SlothBot could do some of our research remotely and help us understand what’s happening with pollinators, interactions between plants and animals, and other phenomena that are difficult to observe otherwise,” Coffey said. “With the rapid loss of biodiversity and with more than a quarter of the world’s plants potentially heading toward extinction, SlothBot offers us another way to work toward conserving those species.”

Donate to Conservation

The Atlanta Botanical Garden works in partnership to conserve imperiled plants and natural communities. Its multi-faceted approach blends rigorous field-based plant rescue and habitat rehabilitation with state-of-the-art molecular research, integrating the work of natural resource managers, student interns, and citizen-scientists into native plant conservation across the Southeast.

Nature in the American South is both incredibly threatened and wonderfully rich, diverse, and unique. Globally recognized for their richness and rarity, southern swamps and coastal dune lakes, ancient longleaf pine forests, and perched mountain pitcher plant bogs are worth fighting to sustain.

To make your earmarked donation, call the Garden Advancement team at 404-591-2015.

Conservation & Research

With interests in the Southeast United States, the Caribbean and Ecuador, the Garden is committed to protecting international plant populations through research, conservation, education and restoration.

Learn more

Southeastern Center for Conservation

The Southeastern Center for Conservation is a keystone of the Garden. From plant conservation research to education outreach, the Center is a hub for partners in conservation and research.

Learn More