I am Batman!

Beatriz de Brito Leite (u5645799)

Little Background and Important things to consider

In this work experience I had the chance to do a very unique task and learn a lot about threatened species and what has been done to protected them (at least one of them). The Eastern Bent-Wing bat (Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis) is usually found in caves to breed and hibernate and can travel up to 65km a night. They usually live together and there are records of about 15000 bats living in New South Wales, migrating to the coast in the beginning of February (till end of march) and returning on November. It can weight up to 20 grams and its body length is approximately 6 centimeters.

The Eastern Bent-wing bat.

The Eastern Bent-wing bat. Source: NSW Government Office of Environment & Heritage

The bats usually choose a few nursery caves for shelter and they have specific characteristics (as temperature and humidity) and damage or disturbance can be very threatening to them. They can spend half of their lives in roosts and rely a lot on shelters and that is why this species is consider in NSW as vulnerable.

The Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis is found along a coastal band on the East Coast of Australia. Source: Andrew Lincoln – Fauna and Flora Research Collective Inc. 2010

The Miniopterus schreibersii oceanensis is found along a coastal band on the East Coast of Australia. Source: Andrew Lincoln – Fauna and Flora Research Collective Inc. 2010

But, why bats of all species? Why are they important? First of all: the world would be a boring place if it wasn’t for them. Bats play a vital role for the ecosystem and humans, some bats are very good pollinators, others disperse seeds, restoring cleared or damaged rainforests. Second, (but as important as the first reason) bats are the only mammals capable of true flight! It is amazing! This species in particular are insectivorous and primary predator of night flying insects, so they have a big role in the food chain and also help with forest and agricultural pests.

How is the management done?

Doug Mills from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, kindly let us accompany him in his task to monitor the cave and that population. We went to a place called Wee Jasper Reserve, the cave was hidden in the woods and Mr. Mills set the equipment to record the bats while they were leaving the cave. It happened as soon as the sun set. The monitoring goes until there are no significative number of bats leaving, it can take 1, 3, 4 or as many hours as possible, and we wouldn’t leave until that.

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The Wee Jasper Reserve surroundings.

Homemade video from the special camera used to record the bats leaving the cave, after that a computer program is used to estimate the number of bats that left the cave.

Homemade video from the special camera used to record the bats leaving the cave, after that a computer program is used to estimate the number of bats that left the cave (click the link to see it).

That is done in order to count the population as they leave to the coast. So Doug goes there a few times to check the numbers that are gone and the ones that are left to compare those numbers across the years and follow the development of that population. Another part of the work is to find out probable routes that those bats choose, and to do that Doug Mills installed some ultrasonic detectors around Bungendore and, as part of my work experience we went there to collect them. Figure 3 The ultrasonic detectors are placed on high places so it it easier to detect any noise.

Those special detectors are used because usually the ultrasonic calls emitted by bats are not recognized by human ears, so those machines convert them into audible sounds. Knowing their pathway would be important to manage human threats as windfarms or destruction of bats habitat. Little is known about this tiny but extremely important mammal, the investments to research and protection are low, so is the concern about their vulnerable status, all things that urgently need to change if we want to preserve this beautiful creature.

The ultrasonic detectors are placed on high places so it it easier to detect any noise.

The ultrasonic detectors are placed on high places so it it easier to detect any noise.

The ultrasonic detector was collected for data analysis.

The ultrasonic detector was collected for data analysis.

 I would like to thank very sincerely the attention and affection in which Doug Mills dedicated to me and the other volunteers. His work is of great importance and requires a lot of dedication, which he has to spare. Thank you!

More information at

 Bat Conservation Trust, 2015. Why Bats Matter. [Online]

Available at: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/why_bats_matter.html
[Access 29 04 2015].

Jones, E. J., Megalos, M. A. & Turner, J. C., 2015. Bats. [Online]
Available at: http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/20134.pdf
[Access 30 04 2015].

New South Wales Office of Environment & Heritage, 2015. Bats. [Online]
Available at: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/threatenedspecies/07471tpagssvol2pt12bats.pdf
[Access 28 04 2015].

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About Biodiversity Conservation Blog

I am an Associate Professor at The Australian National University and convene a (very awesome) course called Biodiversity Conservation. Myself and students in the course contribute to this blog.
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One Response to I am Batman!

  1. Chloe says:

    Great blog with some really interesting natural history and ecolgical information about the eastern bent-wing bat! I’d be interested to know more about how wind farms (you mentioned this in passing) may affect this species – and bat species more generally. Is there any research to suggest that sustainable energy production will negatively impact the species, and if so, how?

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