The Echo
Women in Bat Conservation: Loren Ammerman

The Echo

Women in Bat Conservation: Loren Ammerman

Published on March 23, 2015

AmmermanName:  Loren K. Ammerman

Title: Professor of Biology

Organization:  Angelo State University

What is your focus in bat research?

As a biology professor, I have had the opportunity to conduct a wide variety of research projects, primarily in collaboration with students. I’ve been involved in studies using genetic data to describe a new species of Eumops from Ecuador and to study genetic diversification of lineages of several species (such as Townsend’s Big eared bat, California Myotis, Velvety Free-tailed bats, Mexican long-nosed bats). I have also been monitoring the endangered Mexican long-nosed bat colony in Big Bend National Park using thermal imaging, conducting diet and roosting studies on several Texas bat species, and conducting a long-term survey of the community structure in Big Bend National Park (this will be the 20th year!). In this last effort, I’ve been able to combine education and research by teaching a Natural History of Bats course six times and introducing at least 90 students to the world of bats. 

Although I’ve been able to work with and appreciate the bat diversity in Arizona, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Malaysian Borneo, my research focus has been on Texas species. I’ve summarized much of the recent information about their biology and distribution in a book called “Bats of Texas” (2nd edition) coauthored with David Schmidly and Christine Hice.

Spotted batWhat is your most exciting moment in your research career?

There have been so many moments! The one I would have to highlight is about a quest.  I started working in Big Bend National Park 20 years ago in part to learn more about spotted bats in Texas. Although my team has documented over 7,000 bat captures in the park over the years, only 3 of them were spotted bats. I was not present when the first 2 were captured but finally, last May I was able to see my first spotted bat in person!

The other moment that I find inspiring is the calming sound of an emergence of Mexican long-nosed bats in the Chisos Mountains in pitch dark. Their social chatter and the “whoosh”-ing of their wings is soothing as I lay in complete silence at the cave entrance and imagine them headed to their favorite agave plants to feed on nectar.

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

Knowing where a bat species occurs is fundamental to its protection and conservation. I think that we come to think of bat distributions as static. However, I, and many of my colleagues, have found specific bat species in places that they were not expected. For example, in Big Bend National Park we documented for the first time Western Yellow bats, American Perimyotis, and Silver-haired bats!  By examining records of bats submitted to the Department of Health in Texas my students have found (and continue to find) new occurrences of bat species. Bat distributions are changing!

How have you been involved with Bat Conservation International? 

I’ve been a member of BCI for 24 years.  BCI has been an important source of funding for my research and for my student’s research. For example, I received funding from BCI to develop a method to census a colony of Mexican long-nosed bats (MLNB) using thermal imaging and my student, Erin Adams, is currently supported, in part, by a BCI grant to study the seasonal and nightly activity patterns of MLNB.

Loren with a batDo you have any advice for people who want to get involved in bat conservation?

My advice is to not only get a strong background in biology in order to understand the lives of bats, but also to develop your skills in written and oral communication.  It also would be helpful to learn the advantages and disadvantages of current technologies being used to study bats and to be flexible as these technologies change. 

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