Volume 34, Issue 1, Winter 2015

Finding Her Calling

BATS discusses grad student Erin Adams’ passion for bats and ‘bat people’

Erin Adams is a second-year graduate student pursuing a Master of Science degree at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas. She is researching the activity patterns and early-season diet of the endangered Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) in Texas.

Bats: How did you become interested in bats?

Adams: Everyone has an experience that shapes his or her view of bats. In my case, it started with the story my grandfather shared about when he and my father, as a child, found a bat that had died in the house. The empathy he shared for the bat shaped my view of bats. In addition to growing up in a supportive family that was connected to nature, that set the stage for me to pursue a career working with bats years later. 

Bats: What advice do you have for the next generation of students undertaking bat research?

Adams: Simply put, do what you need to do to get involved and to be successful. Obtain experience with diverse research techniques, even with other taxa. Read papers, ask questions and let the answers guide you to your next question. Volunteer to get experience. Talk to people and build a network of peers and colleagues. Keep moving forward, and you will position yourself to be in the right place at the right time for your opportunity.

Bats: What are your hopes for the long-term outcomes of your research?

Adams: Ultimately, I hope my research is able to fill in important knowledge gaps for the conservation and management of Mexican long-nosed bats across their range. I want the methods I develop to overcome some of the specific challenges for deploying PIT tag readers at caves in remote field locations, and to serve as a model for others undertaking similar research. I want to apply the skills I have learned in my research to contribute to a larger conservation agenda.

Bats: How do you approach convincing a skeptic about why bats are important?

Adams: I have encountered many skeptics over the years and realized that the dislike and fear that underlies the skepticism is often rooted in negative experiences they or their family and friends have had with bats. By first listening to their story, I have found that it disarms them and then allows me to open a dialogue about bats and their positive attributes. Not everyone is converted, but many leave the conversation a little more sympathetic and educated about the importance of bats.

Bats: What is the most amazing thing you have learned about bats?

Adams: Given the diversity of bats in the world, I am fascinated by the specialized traits of different species: social systems in colonies, links between echolocation frequencies and insect prey size, as well as niche partitioning, amazing migrations, and hibernation as a whole! But perhaps the most amazing thing I’ve learned from working with bats is how incredible bat people are, and I have found them to be encouraging and willing to help students like myself. 

Bats: Any closing thoughts?

Adams: I believe we need to always examine our assumptions about bats; they are more dynamic and resilient than we know. There is importance and hope in bat research and conservation; we can and will make a difference through our work. While the challenges are great, and progress often slow, the commitment and creativity of people in the global bat community can make a lasting and positive conservation impact as long as we keep learning and sharing our findings.

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