Diana works with a group of incredibly dedicated volunteers called the Houston Area Bat Team to educate the public about bats.
Name: Diana Foss
Title: Wildlife Biologist, Wildlife Diversity Program
Organization: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
What is your focus in bat conservation?
Bats are often poorly understood and in many cases, we know very little about how or where bats live in urban areas. I work with a group of incredibly dedicated volunteers called the Houston Area Bat Team. We work together on four main goals related to bats in the greater Houston area:
- To learn more about our local bat species, such as typical bat behavior and roost site locations, and more. Eleven bat species inhabit our area.
- To work with the public and local communities to share our knowledge and observations to help everyone better understand bats.
- To encourage the inclusion of both natural and artificial bat roosts in habitat or structures on both private and public lands, where feasible. Examples would be leaving tree snags in natural areas, or construction of bat-friendly bridge roosts or the addition of bat houses in parks where possible.
- To offer technical advice on managing bats in urban areas, when needed.
We are currently documenting all known large bat roost sites, including bridges, parking garages, etc., and monitoring each one through the year. We closely monitor the bat colony at our public bat bridge – Waugh Drive bat colony – and give regularly scheduled ‘bat chat’ presentations for the public. A bat team member also gives ‘bat chats’ onboard Buffalo Bayou Partnership’s evening boat tour to the bridge. We also serve as a resource to the community for bat-related questions.
What’s your favorite species and why?
Rafinesque’s big-eared bat – I absolutely love their big ears and their method of hunting insect prey. I am concerned about loss of hollow tree roosts and bottomland/riparian habitat for them, in addition to the effects of white-nosed syndrome on all bats.
What is the most satisfying part of your involvement with bat conservation?
I love the realization that people are willing to donate their valuable time and considerable effort to learn more about bats and to share that information with others. We are discovering so much about bats through simple observation and research, resulting in more questions and the drive to learn more.
What is your proudest moment in your conservation career?
I realized we (bat team) were making a difference when a visitor to Waugh Drive bat colony shared his story and reason for visiting the bats. He is a bus driver in Denmark. He mentioned that he was coming to Houston to visit his family. A rider on his bus exclaimed that he ‘must’ visit the bats at Waugh Drive bridge while he was there. She had read information about the bats and the wonderful emergence online and proceeded to describe the event to him. So the bus driver arrived at Bush IAH airport, met his family, and convinced them to drive all the way into Downtown Houston that very evening. They arrived in plenty of time to watch the bats do their awesome flight. Just by behaving naturally, the bats are amazing and educating people all over the world, in addition to creating a valuable nature tourism opportunity for the city of Houston.
Do you have any advice for people who want to get involved in bat conservation?
Helping bats can be as simple as sharing factual information with friends and the public, or installing a bat house. You can get involved as a volunteer with bat teams or organizations, or donate financially toward bat research, especially white-nosed syndrome research.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied Wildlife and Fisheries Science at Texas A&M University.