Robin Gary of Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District invited us to table at this year’s Austin Cave Festival–a really fun and free whole-family event. Read what Cave Festival is all about at the website for Austin Water. This year it was in the Visitors Center at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center and LBJ herself smiled down upon us as we showed live bats on the half hours and bat videos in between.   We had a huge crowd later and those visiting said “We could tell there was a hot spot over there by Lady Bird; it was The Bats!
Cave Fest was great; wish we had more time to look around!

Cave Fest Table ABR

Cave Fest Table ABR

 

website.


Bats are back at Frio!  First flight since before Christmas!
We’ve been seeing at Fern & Stuart starting ten days ago, but they have been hunkering down during the last cold snap.
With the first few warm nights, they’ve moved back into Frio Cave.
Welcome back beauties!


The National Fish & Wildlife Foundation asked us to “represent” as they announced grants given for “Bats For the Future” at the Shell Campus in Houston’s Energy Corridor. Nothing like seeing live bats up close and personal.  Our “Bat Ambassadors” were the stars of the show!
Thanks NFWF!
bats for the future


Hola from Costa Rica,

 

Just a quick recap, in case you have not read my previous blog posts! I am currently in Costa Rica using two Wildlife Acoustics SM4Bat full spectrum recorders to track bat presence and activity across the country over a ten-week period. My plan is to collect data here and, upon returning to the U.S., running the data through the Kaleidoscope Pro acoustic analysis program with auto-ID technology to try to determine what bats we find where.

 

This is the beginning of my seventh week in the country and my second week at Las Cruces Biological Station. Last week we conducted our research at the station. The week prior, we were in Manuel Antonio, a very popular tourist town on the coast known for its National Park and beautiful beaches. This week and the next we are visiting privately owned plots of land with forest fragments.  I did very little research in Manuel Antonio because I did not feel comfortable leaving my recorders overnight unattended in such a heavily populated place. I can easily lock the recording box to the tree with a heavy-duty lock, but the microphone and cable attach to the outside and could be easily removed and stolen. So, always take care of your equipment, first and foremost. Because, if you lose your equipment, you lose your experiment.

 

I consider this blog a way to impart wisdom on future researchers and animal activists. I have learned a lot while traveling the country and visiting different research stations and locations. Please, do not take anything I say as complaining or badmouthing, I just want to share information and experiences. We have come across some quote unquote issues while being here that I wish I could have foreseen.

  1. Some institutions issue their stipends differently than others; some will pay you in full upfront, some will pay you half when you start and half when you finish, and some will pay you biweekly. Also, if you get paid biweekly, (like any other job) you may be paid a pay period behind schedule and therefore not receive payment until the end of the first month you are there. This is something you should figure out before you leave for your trip and plan your finances accordingly. We have experienced some difficulties in stipend distribution amongst the group members (e.g. some people being paid weekly and some biweekly and some not the full amount). I am sure this will all work out in the end, but it is something I absolutely did not consider to be possible. Also, a few of our visits were to ecotourist businesses where we had to pay out of pocket entrance fees. We will be reimbursed for this later, but, it would have been nice to know beforehand. I feel like this is a weird policy because it is imposing a personal cost on researchers who may or may not have the funds, but apparently it is a pretty common practice.
  2. We had a box of equipment get stuck in customs for over 3 weeks, causing some serious delays in other peoples’ parts of the project, especially since we have moved locations. Anything you think you may need extras of, even if you think “it will be ok”, get them before you leave the country or make sure you have an in-country vendor. The only equipment of mind that I am missing out on are extra microphone covers. The first night I put my recorders out for a test run at La Selva, something chewed a hold in one of my microphone covers. It was only then that I realized, maybe it would have been useful to have extras! Oops! Thankfully the cover was not chewed completely as to where it affected the weatherproof-ness.

 

We are still in the field almost every day. I have 29 days left here before I return to the US to parse through my data and decipher the implications of what I have found. I am really excited and equally nervous to be responsible for going through ten weeks of data! On average, my recorders pick up 1,000 calls a night. But, in some locations, I have picked up as few as 3 calls to over 4,500 recordings in a night. At the sites where I can get 4+ consecutive nights of data, trends start to emerge. My ideal study design would be to have 10+ recorders spread across the country with extra extra large SD cards so they could be left for months at a time, showing temporal and spatial patterns of bat presence and activity. I have made some pretty interesting scatter plots of activity, just playing around with what I have so far. I will share what I am allowed when I can…later!

 

I want to end this blog on a positive note. As mentioned in my previous blogs, there is a girl doing research on the social implications of payment for ecosystem services (where people are paid by the government to not cut down the forest on their property, hence paying them for the services the remaining ecosystem provides). She has found that people in this area are much better informed of the benefits of having bats on their property and in their forests and on their farms. There is less fear and more excitement over bats. They see them as something necessary and without which, the forest would suffer. She reminds me people across the world do not all have the same information and associations we do about our flying friends. What we, as concerned and caring citizens of the world, need to do is have patience and understanding, spreading positive and informative narratives of bats. All it takes is conversation and interaction to change a mind and influence the future.

 

As always, feel free to contact me with questions or comments (ahall6@stedwards.edu).

 

Squeak squeak,

Amy


This Mexican free-tailed girl was found, a few weeks back, at Penn Field by Sara Fern of iHeart Media
She was super dehydrated from being stuck in a building for many days and was super lucky Sara found her.

After two weeks of good food and smart water, she flew beautifully last night, and is ready for release!
She says “I Live Here, I Give Here”
Thanks for giving her a second chance Sara!

Mexican free-tailed bat AA

Save the date!


Greetings bat lovers,
This is my second foreign correspondence while I am doing research in Costa Rica (you can find my first blog post further back on this site). To refresh your memories, I am conducting acoustic surveys across Costa Rica using two Wildlife Acoustics SM4BAT Full-spectrum passive recorders to look into the impacts of land use on bat activity and species assemblage. My project is part of a larger NSF funded project led by Drs. Beck and Wasserman looking at the impacts of land-use on primates. My fellow interns are researching antibiotic resistance and hormone levels in primates (these guys get to follow monkeys around and collect fecal samples), water quality of streams entering/inside/leaving forest fragments, fig trees, air quality, and the social implications of eco-tourism. I am the bat lady. We arrived here January 2nd, and after about a week of gathering our equipment and setting up, we started data collection.
What have I learned in my first two weeks here?
1. The weather is the ruler of the quality of your data. Even though it is the ‘dry season’ here in the rainforest, it rains almost every day. Hopefully it will ease up soon because a lot of my recordings are static. Currently, we are at La Selva Biological Research Station. Fortunately, they have a list of over 70 confirmed bat species found in this reserve alone. I plan to compare the findings from the recordings to the list they have to see if we find anything interesting! I have not spent much time analyzing my data yet, as we spend most of our days in the field. While my data collects itself, I am a part of a team and I help the other members collect theirs.
2. Sleep and food are paramount. Field work is no joke and even though I work hard to get 8 hours of sleep a night, I always want more. Those of you comfy in your beds with no assigned time to wake up, I am jealous until mid-March. All of us have already lost weight and our pants are getting baggy even though we eat rice and beans almost every meal! I hope to be super fit by the time I get back to the US.
3. It is very important to get along with your teammates. We are going to be together for 10 weeks, every single day. I love my team and we are making amazing memories here in the jungle. I am excited to get to spend a few days off in Manuel Antonio, hanging out and laughing on the beach with a coconut in my hand! If we did not get along, this would be a very different experience.
4. I am very lucky to have such supportive friends, family, and colleagues. The constant encouragement from everyone makes being away from home very easy. That being said, this is a marathon, not a sprint! I have 8 weeks left and I know at some point all of us will need some TLC and a shoulder to cry on when we are just missing that comfort of home. But I love traveling and know I am fortunate to have such an amazing opportunity to conduct funded research in such a beautiful country on such awesome animals. We’ve done some really cool things: walked across Costa Rica’s second-longest bridge in Tirimbina, climbed a 46 meter high tower overlooking the forest canopy where I got to watch Howler monkeys and White-faced Capuchins flit through the trees just 50 feet away, gone on night hikes and seen Eyelash Vipers and Red-eyed tree frogs, and watched rivers double in depth overnight.
5. It’s all worth it for the bats! So far, I’ve seen Proboscis bats and Greater White-lined bats every day when I walk out of my cabin. I’m sure I will see more species as time goes on. But getting to see their little faces and watching them leave every night to feed is such a rewarding experience. Everyone I talk to is eager to learn all of the fun facts I can throw at them. Many people are surprised to find out not all bats are vampiric (actually less than 1% of the approximate 1200 species drink blood). Anything I can do to improve the understanding, empathy, and appreciation for these bats, I will!
In a couple of weeks the group and I will be leaving for Quepos/Manuel Antonio where we will be doing our research in the National Park and surrounding land. This is a neat tourist town where we will certainly encounter many people who may or may not be familiar with eco-tourism. While my research is going steadily and everyone I talk to is very, very interested in it, I have received disheartening news from the girl doing the social research. She is conducting surveys with as many people as she can, and she has found that many of her subjects have very negative views of bats. Hopefully I, you, and everyone who comes into contact with the Austin Bat Refuge can help change the stigma associated with bats over time to where they can be loved and appreciated for their insane evolutionary history, ecosystem services they provide, and their wonderful personalities.
As always, feel free to email me for any questions or comments (ahall6@stedwards.edu)
Tata for now

Wildlife Acoustics SM4BAT Full-spectrum passive recorders

My Gear – Wildlife Acoustics SM4BAT Full-spectrum passive recorders

Eyelash Viper

Eyelash Viper

 

Red-eyed tree frogs

Red-eyed tree frogs

Amy in the Canopy

Canopy Life


The Fall-Out Kids passed their flight checks 2 nights ago so they got released last night.  Here’s a few shots of them tearing up the aviary.
One of the girls had blue lip gloss (Thanks Kat Von D!) on left ear, one on the right, and the male blue on forehead.
We recovered them the next evening for release at their roost on a night when lots of bats were flying in Central Texas.  They were a little freaked out by the whole thing, but we’re sure they’re thrilled to be home!

Thanks for saving them Erika & Ray!

Mexican free-tailed bat flight check

Mexican free-tailed bat

Mexican free-tailed bat