Emily Davis joined a dream. That dream became Bat Conservation International – about five months after she paid her first membership dues in October 1981. She's been paying her dues for 30 years now.
The dedicated cave explorer and bookseller became BCI Member Number 39 after showing up at the North American Bat Research Symposium in Ithaca, New York, and crossing paths with BCI Founder Merlin Tuttle. "He was going around talking about this organization he wanted to create that would protect bats and publicize a positive image for bats," she recalls. "He said everybody needed to support his idea. So I did."
Has it been worth it after all these years? "Oh, yeah. For me it's two-sided: my whole life revolves around bats and caves because of my business." Emily and her husband, Michael Warner, own Speleobooks in Schoharie, New York. The store specializes in books and other items related to caves, caving and bats.
"We've been able to help BCI now and then over the years" with advice for BCI's Batcatalog. Now that collaboration is moving to a new level: BCI and Speleobooks have formed a partnership to replace the Batcatalog with Batgoods.com, an online source for bat-related items of all kinds. Speleobooks operates Batgoods.com, with BCI receiving a percentage of each sale.
"It's a wonderful partnership," Emily said. "We think it's going to benefit everyone. And it frees up a lot of BCI's time and energy that can now go to bat conservation."
When she met Merlin, Emily, an enthusiastic caver since 1969, was hoping to learn more about bats. "For me," she says, "bats were a natural. I've always been interested in biology and unusual animals. So when I started exploring caves for sport, I became very interested in cave life – especially bats.
Speleobooks was a part-time operation for 10 years, while Emily continued working as a schoolteacher. She incorporated bats into her lessons and also became a popular bat-education speaker. She went full-time with Speleobooks in 1986. Since the early 1980s, Emily has also been working with the New York Department of Conservation on its annual bat counts.
One of her strongest memories of BCI is from 1986, "when Merlin took the dive and moved to Austin (from Wisconsin). He had to make this enormous decision to leave his job and focus his whole life on the conservation of bats. That impressed me so much. Those of us who could had to step up to the plate and support him on that."
And then there was the BCI Founder's Circle Ecotour to Brazil: "We went 600 miles up the Amazon in a tiny, little boat. I will never forget the time the captain took us out at 4:30 in the morning. It was so quiet. Nobody said a word. And we listened to the animals waking up and to the jungle coming to life. That was one of the most emotional experiences of my life."