Two major conferences help bat scientists join forces in Austin, TX


By Kristen Pope

Last month, nearly 600 bat scientists met in Austin, Texas, for two major bat conferences: the 50th North American Symposium for Bat Research and the 19th International Bat Research Conference, which were held in conjunction. Scientists came together to share research, expertise, and camaraderie at the first major bat scientist gathering since 2019.

Members of BCI’s Science Team enjoying the Conference. Photo by Melqui Gamba-Rios

Approximately 20 Bat Conservation International (BCI) staff members attended the events, with roles varying from organizing and leading workshops and symposia to sharing posters and giving presentations and talks. BCI Data Scientist Dr. Tina Cheng gave a presentation on “Winter status and trends inform conservation for WNS-affected bats,” while BCI Agave Restoration Program Manager Dr. Kristen Lear shared a talk on “Recognizing the importance of community livelihoods in advancing conservation measures for endangered pollinating bats,” among many others.

One of the most significant moments of the joint conference was when BCI Chief Scientist Dr. Winifred Frick received one of the event’s most distinguished honors: the Thomas H. Kunz Recognition Award, which recognizes exemplary contributions by early and mid-career bat scientists. The award was especially meaningful for Dr. Frick because Dr. Kunz, a renowned bat researcher, was her postdoctoral mentor.

“It was an incredible moment to be all together and receive the first Tom Kunz Recognition Award,” Dr. Frick says. “Tom meant so much to me and to so many people in our community.”

The meetings highlighted the work of researchers at all career levels, from senior scientists to students. Two BCI Student Scholars—Sheherazade (known as Shera) and Iroro Tanshi—were in the spotlight as Early Career Plenary Speakers, and many other scholars also shared their work. Three BCI board members (past and present) and science advisors also gave plenary talks, including Dr. Gary McCracken, Dr. Liliana Davalos, and Dr. Gerry Carter.

Some of the BCI Team at Bracken Cave. Photo by Melqui Gamba-Rios

“People were so excited to share the work that they were doing as well as connect with friends, and there was a lot of energy in terms of working on building new collaborations,” Dr. Frick says.

In addition to an array of workshops, talks, presentations, symposia, and posters, BCI sponsored, organized, and hosted the Diversity in Science Breakfast, BCI Student Scholars Social, and contributed in various ways to many other events, including the GBatNet Big Bat Brainstorm Workshop, Teacher’s Workshop, and Lunch with a Mentor Program. BCI also hosted multiple Bracken Cave excursions that drew over 300 participants to watch Mexican free-tailed bats emerge at dusk. 

“Having so many people together with diverse viewpoints and expertise, but all focused on bats, is inspiring and motivating” says Dr. Teague O’Mara, BCI’s new Director of Conservation Evidence. “It was also great to reconnect with old friends and find new places for collaboration.”