Science Diary: Bat Count Tracking
Music; Ambiance: Radio transmitter beep
“One. Okay. First bat. Two. Transmitter bat. It was him.”
That’s Wildlife Biologist Al Hicks on the hunt for an Indiana Bat. Welcome to Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. The population of Indiana Bats has been declining nationally, and until recently, increasing in New York State. Al Hicks is hoping to learn more about where these bats roost in the summer, and whether they mix with bats that hibernate in other caves. A year ago, when these recordings were made, Hicks had attached radio transmitters to a number of bats to determine where they go when they leave their winter cave.
“We’re hoping to find the bat in a tree (beep, beep, continuing) and that is the noise we’re looking for. And we’re going to find the tree and we’re going to count the bats that come out of the tree, and we’re going to see how many animals are using this roost.
Al Hicks is at a small patch of wooded wetlands, bordered on one side by a busy road and on the other by a large apartment complex. According to Hicks, these patches of wilderness could be crucial for the bat’s survival.
“Our primary interest is where on the landscape are they? Okay, watch, guys! Did you hear that change in pitch? As the bat starts to get active, the pitch will change a little bit, because the angle of the transmitter is changing, its tighter against the body, or not so tight against the body. And so you generally will get a sense of something going on before the bats actually start flying out.”
These recordings were made a year ago. And since that time, thousands of New York state’s hibernating Indiana Bats have become susceptible to a disease that’s been killing them in droves. Al Hicks’ study of Indiana Bats has taken on a new urgency. We’ll hear more in future programs.
Pulse of the Planet’s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.