Farah Carrasco-Rueda, a Ph.D. student from the University of Florida, is studying the response of bat species to the expansion of agriculture land use in the Amazon region of Peru. To recognize the immense conservation value of her work, Farah was awarded the inaugural Women in Conservation Science Award from Bat Conservation International. This award recognizes female scholars from developing countries who are working on key bat conservation initiatives. Bats sat down with Carrasco-Rueda to learn more about her work and life in the field.
Bats: What is the focus of your research?
Carrasco-Rueda: I am interested in how and why different land use types affect bat diversity and the ecosystem services provided by bats. I am also interested in the differences present at the forest edges when they are adjacent to different types of land uses. My study design allows me to compare bat diversity and community composition in three different habitats: forest, edge and production land. With my study, I will be providing information about the diversity of bats in areas that are located outside protected areas. As part of my dissertation work, I will be informing local Peruvian people through extension activities about the benefits that bats can provide to their forest and their life.
Bats: What is it like working the field?
Carrasco-Rueda: Something fun always happens in the field! One night, my two volunteer field assistants and I were capturing bats in a cattle pasture close to the highway. We were wearing white and red light headlamps. After an hour, there were five motorcycles and around 15 people watching us. The next morning, the owner said people thought a meteorite had fallen on his land. Our lights moving around in the evening drew attention. That night, without noticing, we brought some excitement to Alegra.
Bats: Do you have any advice for women in science?
Carrasco-Rueda: Prepare yourself. Look for the best scientific training in your field. Persevere, no matter how many times you might fail. Do not doubt your own capacity, keep working, follow your own rhythm but keep pushing forward. Once you see what you are able to do, you will increase your own view of what you are capable of doing and that will feed your own confidence. With your own work, you will inspire other women to work even in non-science fields. Do what you love.
Bats: Why is the Women in Conservation Science Award important to you?
Carrasco-Rueda: The Women in Conservation Science Award recognition incentivizes me to keep working and persevering in conducting science and studying bats, increasing the efforts to achieve bat conservation and their appreciation by people. It is not only a recognition for me as a person but for all the women who support me in my career, starting with my mother and including colleagues, mentors and advisors. It is also important to me that this award will motivate other women in science and in this particular field of study to keep working, and to realize how important is our participation as women for the development of science.