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Bat Research

Little brown bat

One of our research projects is with the Wisconsin Citizen-based Acoustic Bat Monitoring Project with the WI Department of Natural Resources (mouthful, huh?). This particular research project was started by the DNR to determine the range of the eight species of bat found in Wisconsin; Little brown myotis, Northern long-eared myotis, Eastern pipistrellle, Big Brown bat, Eastern red bat, Hoary bat, Silver-haired bat, and Indiana bat. To learn more about these bats, click here.


Now you might wonder why we need to know where the different bat species are in Wisconsin. The fact of the matter is that bat populations throughout parts of North America are steeply declining due to habitat loss and a fungal disease known as White-nose syndrome (WNS). WNS is responsible for 1 million dead bats since its outbreak in 2006.

That alone is a tragedy, but it is going to have unknown repercussions on the environment. It is estimated that the amount of insects that would have been eaten by those 1 million bats weighs is at 694 tons. If that doesn't seem important to you consider every day at the beach, backyard bar-b-q, and garden that's be ruined because of insects. It will only get worse if bat populations continue to decline and insect populations rise. To learn more about WNS click here.

8/8/2012 WNS map

Map: Current distribution of White-nose syndrome

However it is not possible to know if a population of bats is disappearing if you don't know that they are there to begin with. Hence our research.

Essentially what we did was do a moving survey of an designated area, trying to determine what species of bats were there. Doing the survey itself was easy. After some training provided by the DNR, we used portable acoustic equipment combined with a GPS system to identify bat calls and pin-point where the equipment "heard" it.

Five different times through the summer Amanda one of our rehabilitators, a couple volunteers, and usually one intern went on a survey. Four instances were boat surveys on a large body of water known as the willow flowage, and one was walking part of the Bear-skin trail.

It was more fun than one might think. We set out at twlight. The person who was holding the monitor stood in the front to avoid noise interference from the rest of us. Those of us not holding the hand held device were able to enjoy a walk or ride in the summer night air, laughing and talking, conversation stalling whenever the word "Bat!" was excitedly yelled out. Early in the evening before full night set in we were often able to see the bats themselevs flying over us.

The most common bat that we encountered was the Little Brown Myotis, although we also encountered four other species. Take a look at the photos down below for our results.

For more information about bats, this research and how you can help please click here.

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