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Habitat diversity & bat activity in vineyards

Rochelle setting up bat acoustic monitoring equipment in a Napa Vineyard
Rochelle setting up bat acoustic monitoring equipment in a Napa Vineyard

For her undergraduate honors thesis, Rochelle studied bat activity in North Coast vineyards. Using acoustic equipment, she tested whether local or landscape-scale habitat diversity influenced vineyard bat activity. Rochelle and her colleagues found that local habitat diversity significantly increased overall bat activity, especially for two of the most common bat species detected (the Yuma myotis & Big brown bat).

These species are also known to consume agricultural pests. Thus, promoting their activity in agricultural landscape will not only benefit bats, but may also help suppress agricultural pests. Rochelle’s research was published last week in the journal Agriculture, Ecosystems, and the Environment.

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Bat blitz!

How hard does a pallid bat bite?
How hard does a pallid bat bite?

Leith & Rochelle headed up to Canada last weekend to help with a Bat Blitz. This year, the objective was to inventory the bat diversity within a Nature Conservancy preserve in the Okanagan valley of British Columbia.

Over three nights, we documented 10 of the 14 species known to occur in the area. On the last night we participated, we finally caught a pallid bat – a rare and exciting catch. These bats are known to feed on large ground dwelling arthropods, including scorpions, and sometimes even small lizards! How much force is needed to access such hard prey items? Even though a few of the biologists felt force of this pallid’s bite, when we attempted to measure his bite force he was unwilling to perform.

While we had to leave the following morning, the blitz continued another night, and we hope they were able to document more of the diversity of this valuable preserve. We can only hope the next time we catch a pallid bat, the first thing he will chomp down on is our bite force meter!

 

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Notes from the field: Vendovi Island

Gearing up for this summers’ field work! Last week Sharlene, Abby, Jim and I set out to conduct a pilot survey of the bats on the Vendovi Island preserve. In collaboration with the San Juan Preservation Trust, a local non-profit land trust, we carried two nights of surveys to begin documenting the bat diversity on this 217 acre island. This was an excellent opportunity to help the trust in their broader efforts to document the biodiversity on this island preserve. It was also a valuable opportunity for me to kick start my research on the San Juan Islands, which I will be starting in July on San Juan and Orcas Island.

Over our two-night survey, we captured bats 2 of the 10 species documented to occur throughout the archipelago. Surprisingly, all of the bats we caught were males. So, is Vendovi Island a bachelor pad for bats? Our surveys were too limited to say for now. I hope to return later in the season, as maternity colonies begin to form to assess whether females, and other bat species also inhabit the island. For more information about the biodiversity of Vendovi Island or the San Juan Preservation Trust, click here.

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Tropical Biology in Costa Rica

Leith and I just arrived in Costa Rica for a field course in Tropical biology with the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS). Our first stop is Palo Verde, a dry tropical forest that is a unique habitat.  Here with the Organization of Tropical Studies (OTS) course, we are observing an incredible diversity of wildlife from longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae), to the frog-eating bat, Trachops cirrhosus, to the Limpkin, Aramus guarauna. Drawing inspiration from this mega-diverse ecosystem, we are carrying out research projects, learning cutting edge research techniques, and squeezing a little time in for fun too.

If you would like to keep up with our progress visit our course website.  We upload a science minute podcast daily and blog about our progress overall on the course.

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