As we head into 2021, our instincts are to leave 2020 behind us as quickly as possible. It was undoubtedly a difficult year, but the New Year provides an opportunity to take stock and reflect on the good and what we learned along the way.

01.08.21

By Dr. Winifred F. Frick

Chief Scientist, Bat Conservation International

As we head into 2021, our instincts are to leave 2020 behind us as quickly as possible.  It was undoubtedly a difficult year, but the New Year provides an opportunity to take stock and reflect on the good and what we learned along the way.

As part of my New Year ritual of deliberating on what I learned last year, I offer up five reflections on lessons learned in 2020 as it relates to our efforts to end bat extinctions.

  1. People around the world speak up for bats. We saw a groundswell of positive messaging and response not just from scientists, but also from the media and the public to stand up for bats and learn more about how and why bats are special and important. Many news pieces on bats this year started from a “newsworthy” exploration of any connection between bats and disease, but most often pivoted to explore and elaborate on the many benefits and fascinating biology of bats.
     
  2. The global bat research and conservation community is connected and collaborative. Scientists who study and work to protect bats rallied together to publish research papers, serve on expert panels, write guidance and fact sheets, write blog posts to communicate scientific findings to general audiences, use social media, hold virtual conferences, and generally work in a collaborative and connected nature to share and spread information about bats that was scientifically accurate and showcased the value of bats and bat research for our global well-being.

  3. Conservation is not just about protecting nature, but about protecting ourselves. The pandemic makes the threat of ecological destruction real and reinforces the need to invest in science and conservation. Investing in science, conservation, and collaboration, as well as communicating their values to people, remain priorities as we move forward.

  4. Solving complex problems like preventing pandemics requires interdisciplinary work and collaboration. We still don’t know how the coronavirus strain that causes COVID-19 got into the human population, but integrating and collaborating across diverse fields of conservation, disease ecology, immunology, virology, and public health is necessary. This is not a new idea as it forms the core of the One Health initiative. We need to continue to support interdisciplinary work and overcome the challenges inherent to working outside our own disciplinary silos.

  5. Protecting bats requires sustained attention, effort, and global support. We are creative and resilient in our quest to achieve our mission of conserving the world’s bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet.

All of us at Bat Conservation International welcome in the New Year standing for bats together, grateful for our community, and committed to bat conservation and a better world.