Meet Katie, wildlife biologist and director of the BCI Imperiled Species Program for the USA and Canada.
Name: Katie Gillies
Title: Director, Imperiled Species Program, US/Canada
Organization: Bat Conservation International
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I got my B.S in Wildlife Management at the University of Idaho, Moscow, ID. I did my undergraduate research on the differences in bat activity between burned and unburned habitats.
I got my M.S. in Biology at Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID. I did my graduate research on the population genetics and hibernacula characteristics of Townsend’s big-eared bats.
What is your focus in bat conservation?
My focus at BCI is on threatened and endangered bats in the US and Canada. Primarily, I identify needs to aid in the recovery of endangered bats and then implement those projects. For example, if a roost for an endangered bat needs protection, I might work with landowners, management agencies and others to protect the site. One of the greatest threats to bats right now is White-nose Syndrome. As it is driving several species to endangerment, I lead BCI’s WNS response as well. One of the most rewarding parts of my position is awarding WNS research grants. BCI is the second largest provider of competitive WNS research grants in the US (second only to the US Fish and Wildlife Service). I am focused on providing funding to projects that seek a biological control or other means of stopping or reducing the growth and spread of the fungus. To date, BCI has awarded over $375K in funding to answer critical research questions.
Who is your female conservation mentor?
Rita Dixon at the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Rita was my ornithology instructor when I was an undergraduate at the University of Idaho. She supported me in my undergraduate research and gave me my first wildlife technician position with IDFG. She also taught me that you can be unconventional and successful in the wildlife field. Today, she is one of my closest peers and I respect her professional opinion more than most anyone’s.
What is your most proudest moment in your conservation career?
I thought at first that I’d write of how proud I was when I finished my Master’s thesis (which was a challenging field and lab endeavor). Then I thought of how I’d write about the first paper that I published. But then I decided that there was moment, recently, that encapsulates all of those achievements. The proudest moment of my career came just last year, when I became a Certified Wildlife Biologist© through The Wildlife Society. This is a rigorous and peer-reviewed application process that has strict requirements for education as well as professional experience. Additionally, you have to have the support of other wildlife biologists – which means that other wildlife professionals have to value my work ethic and achievements. After 14 years of working in wildlife, I applied and received my certification in 2014.
If you could have one incredible animal adaptation, what would it be?
Flight, of course!
Do you have any advice for people who want to get involved in bat conservation?
If you want to become involved in bat conservation, reach out to your state wildlife agency and ask them how to help with specific projects. Turn your good intentions into something that matters by becoming involved in a larger project or effort. Right now, many states are looking for help from people who are experienced cavers or who are willing to help with the North American Bat Monitoring (NABat) Program. If you become involved with the right people and projects, you’ll make a real difference.