What it’s like to be a Bat Biologist

What’s it like to study bats?

There’s a lot about being a Bat Biologist that is both challenging and exciting. For example, they have to work at night. That can be hard to get used to, but you are also one of few people that get to see this incredible range of diversity of animals that hardly anyone else gets to see because they are only around at night.

Whenever they set their nets at night, they really never know exactly what bat species they’re going to catch. So, every night catching bats is full of surprises! For a Bat Biologist, it’s a bit like Christmas 😊

Dr. Kelly Speer, Mammologist & Parasitologist, finds bats endlessly fascinating. According to Dr. Speer, when you look at the totality of the research being done on bats it’s reflective on how amazingly diverse and interesting bats are.

For similar reasons, Rossana Maguiña, Neotropical Pollination Biologist, loved setting up cameras in the forest close to the flowers she was studying to catch those moments when the bats are feeding. That is something people don’t get to see a lot in nature, and she’s grateful that during her research she was able to catch a lot of those moments and show those videos many people! Check it out yourself at this part of the video.

Bat Fun Facts

One of the fun facts for bats, according to Dr. Sharlene Santana, Bat Biologist, is that they are incredibly diverse.

How diverse are bats? There are over 1400 species of bats! One in every 4 species of mammals is a bat and they live almost everywhere in the world!

Bats are also very good at learning the space they are flying around.

In the video, Rossana Maguiña, describes how when scientists use nets to catch bats, they have to change the location of the nets every night to be able to continuously catch them. That’s how fast they learn!

The Bumblebee Bat is the worlds smallest mammal

Get a look at them about min 3:40 in the video.

What type of lab research is done on bats?

In Dr. Santana’s lab, she researches and tries to understand how bats (or groups within bats) became so diverse. They approach the question by specifically looking at how bats evolved different anatomies or behaviors that allow them to consume different types of foods. That is because it’s known that throughout the evolution of bats and other mammal groups, the evolution of diet played a big role in diversification.

During the years Rossana Maguiña studied bats, she looked at the diet of Nectar Bats to know which plants they were pollinating in the neotropics. Her scientific study led her to Peru and Ecuador.

Dr. Speer studied the interaction between bats and their parasites. Parasites can sometimes transmit diseases to their hosts, and so she was studied how environmental change impacts the ability of bat parasites to transmit diseases to their bat host.

How is research on bat diversity conducted?

There is a lot of field work where scientists collect bats and conduct a lot of research on their diets and feeding behavior. Then, in the lab they do studies of the bats anatomies. They do some biomechanical modeling and put all the pieces together. This helps them see the puzzle and major factors that drove the diversification of bats, or groups within bats.

In Rossana Maguiña’s work, she also looked at the effect of the presence of artificial feeders for humming birds in the Nectar Bat and plant interactions. She also studied if the length of the flowers matched the length of the bats tongue. This research was to see if the plant was evolving with the Nectar Bat pollinators (which is coevolution).

Should you be scared of bats?

For these Bat Biologists, it’s sad that people tend to be scared of bats. This is why they are passionate about discussing the benefits bats provide.

So, what benefits do bats provide? They are:
– Pollinators
– Seed dispensers

Hopefully, people will start to change their minds on the scariness of bats. If you have any questions (or concerns), just leave a comment for our Bat Biologists!

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