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Belle Bats

Bat Bioacoustics Research Team at Saint Mary's College

Month

April 2016

Digging Deeper “with an orange shovel” into Preparation

Written by Cassi Mardis

Our journey begins in a short 42 days. As each day passes I get a little more nervous, scared, and extremely excited. We meet once a week for roughly 3 hours and work with our equipment. Stephanie and I have also been working with Matlab. The more we do it the easier it is (I do think that was the point).

We each have our own topic of interest we will be researching this summer. Mine includes environment factors and how they affect Mexican free-tailed bats emergence time. I am looking at wind, barometric pressure, temperature, precipitation, and other factors as well. The past couple of weeks I have worked with my new Lascar-ELUSB 2’s, which are data loggers that take measurements of humidity and temperature.

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I have also been working on a run through of ImageJ and the worst part is renaming the files. Stephanie and I had to rename approximately 347 different pictures to help us further down the line. It is boring and tedious. And by boring I mean awesome and so much fun.

Today I received my last rabies shot, which is honestly the most exciting thing. When I first told my mom about this trip the big question was if I got to go into the caves and how exciting that would be. Unfortunately, I had to tell her Dr. Kloepper isn’t allowed to take us into the caves. We were both extremely bummed. However, one day in Dr. Kloepper’s office, she started writing down information and nonchalantly said that with the grant we received we can get the rabies shots and go into all of the caves. At that moment I teared up and my insides were screaming with joy. The first thing I did when I left her office was called my mom of course and she screamed out loud for me. It has definitely been my favorite news about the trip.

On another note, do you know what REAL camping is? Well to be honest I had no idea until a couple weeks ago. When I learned what the cute, little, orange hand shovels were in the office I was laughing because I was embarrassed by multiple things. Have you guys caught on yet? They’re for us to use to go to the bathroom while were in the middle of nowhere. I’m over the shock now. Now I just enjoy telling everyone what the shovels are for.

This journey is a once in a lifetime opportunity for some people and I am honored to be going on this two-month trip with Dr. Kloepper, Stephanie, and Kaipo. Three girls, a dog, the open road, and some bats… what could possibly go wrong?

47 Days until we leave!

Written by Stephanie Dreessen

As I’m sitting on my futon, reflecting back on the beginning of this semester, I realized it’s amazing how much you learn in 4 short months. At the beginning of the semester, Dr. Kloepper asked Cassi and me if we wanted to research bats. Of course we had this intent all along (unbeknownst to her), and after that we dove in head first into our research.

Right away, Cassi and I had to figure out what we wanted our focus in her research to be. I hadn’t thought that far ahead, but eventually, over the span of what was probably a week, I decided I wanted to investigate how density affects bat echolocation during emergence. That was the easiest part of this undergraduate research. Then came the not so fun part of research: scouring google for all papers related to what I wanted to research. She was super helpful and gave us a list from previous undergraduate student researchers of hers from the past summer (I owe you guys a thank you!), but I still had more research for myself to do.

We are to become experts about Mexican free-tailed bats. So every once in a while Cassi and I will get a paper from Dr. Kloepper with a note stating that “we may want to know this information” or in other terms, read this not only once, but maybe 20 times. Thankfully, bats are interesting creatures that we have so much to learn from and about, so this isn’t a huge chore. Featured below is just some of my papers that I have read, plus all my notes!

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Besides reading papers, we work on software programs such as Audacity, ImageJ, and MATLAB. When Dr. Kloepper first had us download these programs I felt so overwhelmed. But every week we all meet up for a group meeting to work on our skills within these programs. I can already say that I feel confident to go gather data this weekend rather than wait forty-something days until we actually go gather data. Below is a selfie with some of the software programs, MATLAB and Audacity.

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As the days are getting longer, and the time for us to leave for data collection draws nearer, I can say that my excitement grows tenfold each day. These eight weeks are going to fly by, make me miss my bed, and make me not want to leave the sites. I’ll be sure to take lots of notes (mental and in writing) to review when it’s all said and done. This is a once in a lifetime experience and am thankful for the opportunity!

Project Prep Begins!

Written by Dr. Kloepper

It’s hard to believe that in less than two months we hit the road for our summer field season. This semester has quickly flown by! We have a daily reminder of our upcoming trip, however, because the office is filling up with all our field gear:

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On June 7, we will load up our SUV with all our gear and hit the road the following day. Although we’re still finalizing our exact schedule, we hope to hit up 9 caves over our 8 week, 5000 mile+ trip. At each cave we plan to collect acoustic, video, and environmental data of the emergence of large Mexican free-tail bat colonies. Here is our proposed route for this summer:

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We have been in contact with wonderful landowners, conservation groups, and park rangers who are welcoming us to their caves so we can conduct our research. It’s going to be a hectic but fun summer as the three humans (one professor and two students) and one canine travel the country to investigate bat echolocation and flight behavior.

For the two undergraduate students, Cassi and Stephanie, this is their first time doing any bioacoustic work or having any bat experience. They are finalizing their rabies vaccinations and stocking up on appropriate field gear. Before we leave, there is a lot of training we have to do on bioacoustic and video analysis. The ladies have been working hard, and we have weekly data prep sessions late into the evening.

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With each passing day, we get more and more excited for our summer trip. We’re so excited to have you follow along with our adventures this summer!

 

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