By Morgan Kinniry
If you had told me when I arrived at Saint Mary’s College as a first-year that I would be spending a summer break studying Brazilian-free tailed bats, I would have called you crazy. However, through my time at Saint Mary’s, I have grown to embrace my inner spirit of adventure and try things that at first may seem daunting and out of my comfort zone. This led me to apply for the summer research position within Dr. Laura Kloepper’s Bat Lab. Not having any previous experience with small flying mammals, I am now extremely excited to be a part of Dr. Kloepper’s lab for my senior comprehensive project.
The summer research will involve a twenty-two hour cross-country road trip from South Bend, Indiana to a cave site outside of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Colleagues from Oxford University in England will join Dr. Kloepper, her post-doctoral assistant Felix, and me at our research site.
When conducting preliminary research on Brazilian free-tailed bats, I primarily read published scientific articles. This was an attempt to find a question that could be answered about the Brazilian free-tailed bat to base my research project off of. The occasional National Geographic video footage would arise through search engines showing various birds of prey making flight attacks at the emerging bat colony. Astonishingly, the bats were sometimes able to dodge these highly skilled predators. This was intriguing to me, and I knew I wanted to base my research off of the bat’s incredible ability.
I am interested in finding out what kind of anti-predator communication calls Brazilian free-tailed bats emit as a response to aerial attacks from a raptor. I hope to discover if bats are being social or asocial with one another as a bird of prey is attacking them. This will be conducted through obtaining audio recordings that will hopefully pick up any communication calls made during a raptor attack. From the ground at the same time, I will be observing if the attack made by the raptor was successful, along with what if any visible flight dynamics were altered in an attempt to evade the predator. I will also be recording what kind of predators are present at the time of day near the cave opening along with if the raptor attack is successful on the colony.
I am extremely excited and honored to be working in Dr. Kloepper’s lab this summer. Research on the communication calls as an anti-predator response in the Brazilian free-tailed bat has not yet been studied in depth, so I am looking forward to contributing to this area of research