Research

Bats and Climate Change

jamesScott Bergeson, an ISU PhD student, is attempting to understand the impacts of climate change on Eastern North American bats, specifically the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), and how these mammals may be able to avoid these impacts by altering their behavior. While it is believed that all eastern North American bats are in danger of population decline due to the impacts of climate change, it is predicted that these impacts will drive the endangered Indiana bat to close to extinction. This study is being funded by the Indianapolis Airport Authority and the Indiana Space Grant Consortium.

For more details and updated research results, see Bats and Climate Change.

 

Distribution and Ecology of Bats in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

Bat ResearchVanessa Rojas, a Ph.D. student, is conducting a large-scale assessment of the distribution and ecology of bats on the Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee. Our aims are to test a model predicting the distribution of Indiana bats on forested lands. We are using acoustic and mistnetting surveys to understand the landscape-scale factors that affect the presence of forest dwelling bats. ISU undergraduate student Alexis Bender is conducting acoustic driving transects to gain more information about bat presence in areas that cannot be surveyed by mistnetting. Vanessa will be using radio telemetry to track both Indiana bats and northern long-eared bats to day roosts; data on their roosting habitat preferences will be used to refine models predicting their distribution in this part of the southern Appalachians. This study is being funded by the USDA Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.

Roosting and Foraging Ecology of Virginia Big-eared Bats

Virginia big-eared bats in western North Carolina.

Virginia big-eared bats in western North Carolina.

Joey Weber, a M.S. student, is studying the ecology of a population of Virginia big-eared bats in western North Carolina. Until this study began in 2013, we had very little information on the whereabouts of this population in summer. However, in 2013, Joey tracked the bats from their hibernaculum on Grandfather Mountain to a primary maternity cave on Beech Mountain, NC. Joey is using advanced radio telemetry techniques to discover more about the migration routes and foraging areas used by these bats, which will aid in efforts to conserve critical habitat for the species. This study is being funded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

 

Roosting Ecology of Eastern Small-footed Bats

research1From 2011-2012, we conducted a study of eastern small-footed bats (Myotis leibii), which are rare across their range. These bats are so tiny (4–6 g) that, until recently, it has been virtually impossible to use radio telemetry to track them and little is known about their natural roosts. In the northeastern United States, eastern small-footed bat populations have declined significantly due to White-nose Syndrome (WNS), an emerging infectious disease that is causing local extinctions of cave-wintering bat species. The objective of this study was to study the roosting ecology of eastern small-footed bats, including locating and describing natural roosts, measuring bats’ movements, and measuring bats’ temperatures in their roost sites relative to ambient temperature. Tara Thomson completed the study for her M.Sc. thesis at ISU. This study was funded by the Tallassee Fund.

 

Prescribed Fire and Indiana Bats

research2From 2009-2014, Dr. Joy O’Keefe partnered with the Joint Fire Sciences Program and USDA Forest Service to study the effects of prescribed fire on the roosting ecology of Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis). Frequent landscape-scale fires are important for restoration of pines and oaks, which were common in prehistoric forests, but little is known about the effects of large-scale prescribed burning on wildlife. Concerns about impacts to Indiana bats are a key factor in deciding when and where large-scale burns can be implemented in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Because Indiana bats primarily roost in conifer snags in this region, fire may indirectly benefit bats by restoring pine habitats and by creating new snags. However, we know very little about how prescribed fire affects existing snags and whether fire can create sufficient snags to replace those that are destroyed. The data from this study will inform management decisions and policy guidelines that balance the needs of Indiana bats with the needs of the fire-adapted ecosystem in which they exist. Kristina Hammond worked on this study as part of her M.Sc. thesis at ISU. This study was funded by the Joint Fire Sciences Program. See this USFS page for more information.

 

Roosting and Foraging Ecology of Indiana Bats in Central Indiana

research3Indiana State University is in our 12th year of research at a mitigation site for Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) near the Indianapolis International Airport in central Indiana. Bats and their habitat have been protected in this area since the Airport Authority and US Fish and Wildlife Service signed a Habitat Conservation Partnership in 1992. ISU’s contribution includes annual monitoring and study of the roosting and foraging ecology of Indiana bats using the Airport mitigation lands. A unique facet of this study is an investigation into the social behavior of Indiana bats by M.Sc. student Caroline Byrne. From 2013-2014, Caroline has used acoustics and video to record the social behaviors of Indiana bats at their roosts. This study has been funded by the Indianapolis Airport Authority, Indiana Academy of Science, and the Indiana Space Grant Consortium.
Just an hour south of the Airport project area, we are conducting a long-term study of use of managed forests by bats as part of the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment being implemented by Purdue University, Indiana DNR, and others. For the past seven years, ISU has used mist netting and acoustic surveys to assess the bat community near harvest treatment sites. In 2012-2013, we partnered with Ball State University to radio track northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis) and Indiana bats to day roosts in the Yellowwood and Morgan-Monroe State Forests. In 2014, Ph.D. student Tim Divoll began an investigation into the foraging ecology of northern long-eared bats on these managed forests. Tim is using radio telemetry, insect trapping, and molecular analyses to gain a more comprehensive understanding of what bats eat and where they forage. Tim will be using similar techniques to understand the foraging ecology of Indiana bats on the Indianapolis Airport project. These studies are being funded by the Indianapolis Airport Authority and Indiana Department of Natural Resources.