Friday, May 30, 2014

Arkansan Adventures

I am presently working as a bat survey research technician— I am part of a crew hired by a local university which was hired by the Forest Service to look for federally and locally endangered bats. The Forest Service, in order to comply with the Endangered Species Act, is obligated to (and probably wants to) find out whether there are any endangered species in a region before they do any controlled burns, logging, or other sorts of disruptions that could hurt any endangered populations.

That’s where we come in—as a crew of bat biologists and ecologists, we root around designated areas of the national forests to try to find the federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Because we are trying to find any M. sodalist that might be roosting in the area, we aren’t netting in a grid or other system with predetermined locations, as one might if looking for an unbiased sample of species in the area. Instead, we rely on our understanding of bat ecology, behavior, known populations, topography, and local weather conditions to get inside the bats’ heads and try to find sites where they will be. Bats love partly-covered “flyways” through the forest along trails or roads, and sometimes have to fly long distances to the nearest source of water to drink, for example.

Most of our surveys are two nights per site, so our work day can start as early as 3pm if we are out scouting for sites to set up, or as late as 7pm if we are continuing netting at a nearby site. We net for five hours after sunset, so we close our nets between 1 and 2am as the summer progresses. Quite a lifestyle shift from getting up at 5am to catch rodents in Chiapas!

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