To conserve resources, we are not printing BCI’s 2010-11 Annual Report. A complete digital version is available as a free download at www.batcon.org/annualreport. Here’s a sampling of the work each of our programs accomplished in the past year.
North American Conservation Programs
White-nose Syndrome Response
BCI’s WNS Response Program is deeply involved in international efforts to combat White-nose Syndrome, which is now attacking bat populations in 17 U.S. states and 4 Canadian provinces. We support vital research through funding, leadership and collaboration. Thanks to grants and donations from members, friends and partners, the program has funded nearly $130,000 in WNS research since 2007, including seven research projects last year.
BCI is exploring two experimental approaches for remotely monitoring key hibernation sites to provide an early-warning system for WNS: acoustic bat-detector arrays and the innovative GateKeeper infrared beam-break system. Results are promising.
We are working with partners to implement a coordinated national response plan for WNS and to convince members of Congress and their aides of the urgent need for funding. Executive Director Nina Fascione submitted testimony to Congressional committees.
Bats and Wind Energy
Wind-energy facilities are killing bats at alarming rates, with estimates as high as several hundred thousand deaths per year. The Bats and Wind Energy Program and its partners are testing possible solutions. A two-year BCI-led study of curtailing (shutting down) wind turbines on low-wind nights during bat-migration periods documented 44 to 93 percent reductions in bat fatalities with minimal economic impact. We are also developing acoustic deterrents designed to keep bats away from turbines.
The Western Subterranean Program focuses mostly on the countless abandoned mines that are scattered across the American West and often provide vital shelter to bats. Site assessments locating, documenting and protecting important roosts are a key part of the program’s mission. We assessed almost 400 underground features last year, and more than a fourth of them were protected because of their importance to bats or other wildlife.
Water for Wildlife
The Water for Wildlife Program is building alliances with Native American tribes, watershed associations and other organizations as we expand our efforts to restore degraded springs, ponds and wetlands and to ensure that livestock water supplies are wildlife friendly. BCI and its partners conducted training workshops, which built water-trough escape ramps and improved water sources, at Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico, Pawnee National Grasslands in Colorado and in Sunol, California.
International Conservation Programs
Latin America & the Caribbean
Bats of Latin America & the Caribbean works with government and private partners to create self-sustaining programs dedicated to bat conservation throughout this region. The program conducted two workshops in Mexico, with three more planned in Mexico and Colombia during the summer. Workshop graduates often return home to launch their own conservation projects. The program is also working with the University of Arizona on a protocol for monitoring population trends of endangered, migratory lesser long-nosed bats in the United States and Mexico.
Bats of the Philippines
The first major celebration of the United Nations’ 2011-12 International Year of the Bat took place on Samal Island in the Philippines last January. With many local partners, BCI was a primary sponsor of events for the public, research and conservation leaders and teachers. BCI has been working with the growing community of Philippine conservationists since 2006. A Philippines Cave Bat Workshop, led by biologist Nina Ingle, helped develop the first national database of bat caves and the specific threats facing these populations.
Global Grassroots Conservation Fund
In much of the world, the idea of conserving bats seems far-fetched. And yet, in many countries, a precious few individuals are committed to the idea of protecting them. These dedicated champions of bats often turn to BCI’s Global Grassroots Conservation Fund for help in the form of small grants. Global Grassroots is currently supporting the first bat-house project in Nepal; an education program to protect flying foxes at a historic pagoda in Vietnam; a conservation study of urban bats in New Zealand; research into the impact of a planned wind-energy facility in Ukraine; and public education and signs to benefit flying foxes in Indonesia.
Education and Outreach
The International Year of the Bat (2011-12) provides an extraordinary opportunity to educate people around the world about bats. And BCI has a lead role in planning and promoting festivities worldwide. The department also responds to a steady stream of phone calls and emails on every conceivable topic related to bats and conducts “distance-learning” programs by videoconferences, which reached more than 2,300 schoolchildren. BCI staff members were also interviewed for news reports in newspapers such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal; magazines including Scientific American and National Geographic; and televised reports on CBS, NBC and a host of local stations.
Smoke billowed over the horizon as a raging wildfire threatened to encircle the Southwestern Research Station, base camp for BCI’s field-training workshops in Arizona. By midnight of the first day of the first 2011 workshop, participants and staff were evacuated as the blaze turned into the worst ever in that area. The workshop was canceled. But our workshop team nonetheless managed to conduct a successful “Advanced Capture Techniques” workshop the very next week in nearby Portal, Arizona. A week later, with fires still burning, our scheduled Acoustic Monitoring Workshop was moved to Tucson. The 2011 workshop schedule concludes less dramatically, we hope with a session at Carter Caves Resort State Park in Kentucky in September.
Bracken Bat Cave
One of the worst droughts in memory is scorching the Texas Hill Country. The millions of Mexican free-tailed bats of BCI’s Bracken Bat Cave have responded by, among other things, emerging earlier than normal in order to hunt down enough food. Repairs to existing wells and new water basins and rainwater catchments are providing much-needed water. Education remains a key goal at Bracken, as more than 2,200 visitors BCI members, guests and students marveled at the bats’ breathtaking emergences.
BCI Student Research Scholarships helped 17 students conduct critical bat research last year in 11 countries, from Australia, the United States and Canada to Malaysia, Madagascar and Mexico. Awards ranged from $2,092 to $4,000. Since 1990, we have awarded 310 scholarships to students working in 60 countries around the globe. The U.S. Forest Service International Programs has been an invaluable partner since 2005, providing direct support for approximately 10 scholarships per year to support forest-related research in developing countries.