Clarksville, TN – Shortly after dark, as daytime steam rose from a wooded stream in Fort Campbell, a man’s voice stabbed through the cacophony of crickets.
“We have one! Austin Peay State University (APSU) graduate student Brandon Gulley crackled on the radio.
Moments later, fellow grad student Leah Crowley replied, “I have one too!” And another voice joined, “We have one!”
And the six mist nets that Dr. Catherine Haase’s team erected over those trails had caught three red bats within seconds of each other. Within 20 minutes, the team had tagged three more bats – an evening bat, a gray bat, and a tricolor bat.
Gulley, Crowley and fellow APSU student Dakota Van Parys retrieved the bats from the nets and brought them to an Austin Peay field research truck for a flurry of science activity. They recorded the species, age, sex and mass of the bats.
“It’s a female,” Haase said of the red bat Gulley retrieved. “She is breastfeeding because around her nipples there is a lot of hair loss where babies have breastfed. Either they are on the roost or they have already flown away.
In just two hours, Haase and his team captured and inspected 12 bats – six red bats, three evening bats, one tricolor bat and two gray bats. The night was the most productive night of the summer.
The team – all recent or current biology students at Austin Peay State University – also inspected the bats for diseases such as white nose syndrome, tagged the tricolor bat with a temporary tracking device and banded gray bats.
The information Haase and his team collect during these trips contributes to a three-year partnership between Austin Peay State University and Fort Campbell to study the Army installation for bat species in Endangered. Fort Campbell officials will use this information to develop a conservation plan to protect areas where the endangered bats roost and feed. About 85% of the facility includes natural habitats such as forests, grasslands, streams, lakes, and wetlands.
But Haase students also gain insight and practice in other areas of research, including the effect of water quality on insect biomass and bat diversity and how the nose syndrome white affects the breeding patterns and diversity of bats.
The team’s tracking devices – which fall off after about a week – help Haase and his students record the bats’ roosting habits.
Each morning for the next seven days, the team took turns using radio telemetry to track the tricolor bat they tagged on July 18 to their roost, usually near trees.
On July 20, Leah Crowley, a new member of the team pursuing her mastery, and Jessica Verrillo tracked one of the tri-colored bats to its tree roost. The hike wasn’t far from the creek bed where Crowley caught the bat – a short hike across the creek, through the woods and up a hill to a sugar maple tree. This tree was not far from the white oak where the bat had roosted the day before.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists gray bats as endangered, and conservation groups have called for tricolor bats to be added to the list.
“Because tricolor bats are so small, they’re just decimated by white-nose syndrome,” Haase said. “They are also affected by land use change as they need trees for their summer habitat.”
White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that grows on the wings and nose of the bat, deteriorating the barrier against water loss, causing hibernating bats to come out of hibernation to replenish water reserves. Excitement burns fat that bats have accumulated before hibernation. White nose syndrome can also affect reproduction.
“Bats dehydrate faster and therefore need to wake up more frequently,” Haase said. “These more frequent awakenings cause the bats to burn off all their winter fat, and they essentially starve to death before the hibernation season ends.”
As for the gray bat that the team captured on July 18, “It’s an endangered species, so we put a tape on it so we can track it if it’s recovered,” said Haase said. “These tapes have unit IDs on them, ours is FTC for Fort Campbell, so we know where they came from.”
continue the work
The team’s work for the summer is not over. They will continue to capture bats at Fort Campbell until late August or early September. And Haase hopes his team will continue the work for years to come.
The genesis of the Fort Campbell Bat Project centered on the northern bat, which Haase’s team did not find. But the agreement specified two other species, the tricolor bat, which Haase’s team found and tracked during the week of July 18, and the little brown bat, which the team did not. no longer found. White nose syndrome has decimated all three species.
“If (the tricolor bats) are listed, specific compliance efforts will be required by state and federal agencies if any of these species are found on their property,” Haase said. “If the tri-colored bat becomes an endangered, agency-listed species, Fort Campbell may be required to do surveys like this in the future, which would be a great opportunity for this partnership continues.”
Meet Dr. Haase’s team
Haase specializes in mammalian ecology. She is primarily interested in ecophysiology, which is the study of how environmental conditions affect the behavior of mammals.
Haase’s team, which ranges from current undergraduate biology students to master’s graduates, has similar interests. Here are the students and what they are studying:
- Sarah Kruger – Recently completed his Master of Science in Biology (MS) at APSU researching the impacts of local climate and disease on breeding female bats in the Southeast. She is the current coordinator of the Fort Campbell Bat Project and is working to extend her thesis research to juvenile bats.
- Lea Crowley – A new MS student at APSU is studying the hibernation behavior of tricolor bats in culverts in eastern Texas and the impacts of white-nose syndrome.
- Brandon Goulet – A new master’s student who recently graduated from Austin Peay State University with an undergraduate degree. He will study bats and white nose syndrome.
- Dakota Van Parys – An undergraduate biology student and wildlife field technician on the Fort Campbell Bat Project. He will initiate a long-term study of the impacts of grassland restoration on small mammal communities.
- Jessica Verillo – A recent BSc in Biology and Wildlife Field Technician on the Fort Campbell Bat Project.
- Kennedy Beck – An undergraduate biology student who volunteers for the Fort Campbell Bat Project. She will also initiate a long-term study on grassland restoration and small mammals.
Many Fort Campbell Bat Project students accompanied Haase to the International Bat Research Conference and the North American Symposium for Bat Research in Austin, Texas in early August. . Krueger and recent MS graduate Trevor Walker presented their research on bats at the conference.