Media & Education
Volume 35, Issue 1, 2016
Backyard Bat Researchers
Calling on citizen scientists to aid bat research and conservation in Florida
Scientists studying North America’s rare Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus) are reaching out to the community to help them find the elusive species. The citizen science project, funded in part by Bat Conservation International, aims to fill data gaps in the current knowledge of the species range by enabling volunteers in Florida to conduct acoustic surveys in their own backyards.
“The information citizens will be collecting is critical to our overall understanding of the statewide population of this species,” says Jess Rodriguez, NE Region Volunteer Coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. “These surveys will add to the data collected by state and federal agencies, universities, and non-government organizations. There is very little known about the Florida bonneted bat, and the data our volunteers collect will hopefully guide the development of conservation efforts and future research.”
Participating citizen scientists are given acoustic detectors and training to deploy the equipment in their own backyards or on local conservation lands. Citizens are given the detectors for seven days and are asked to record for five nights.
“To be able to check for bats in my own backyard was really fun,” says Paul Gray, one of the first volunteers to participate in the project. “Anyone can do this. They give very clear directions [to set up the equipment], and it just takes a few minutes every day to check the detector. I can’t wait to hear the results—that is what is really exciting me.” While the project aims to find new locations for the rare bat species, all bat calls that are generated from the acoustic surveys will be identified. “We are sending home every volunteer with a species list and letting them know what was found in their yards. So far we have found five bat species in the 12 sites that we have surveyed, but no bonneted bats yet,” notes Rodriguez. “Considering that they are so rare, it would be incredible if a citizen actually found a Florida bonneted bat,” she adds. “Finding a bonneted bat would be a really great achievement, contributing a lot toward knowledge of the species.”
The project continues through to July 2016 and is currently looking for more volunteers in its study area. The study area includes DeSoto, Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee and Polk counties with SR 60 acting as the northernmost boundary, SR 70 acting as the southernmost boundary and the Peace and Kissimmee Rivers acting as the western and eastern boundaries, respectively.
Interested volunteers should contact Jess Rodriguez (firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-732-1225) or Brendan O’Connor (email@example.com, 863-648-3829) for more information.
Other ways to support research You can help us provide bat detectors ($1,500 per detector) and funding for data analysis ($4,000) for this project. Visit batcon.org/backyardbats.
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