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Georgia Wild E-Newsletter

DNR interns start a summer of searching S. Ga. swamps for bats

By Trina Morris


Two new Georgia Department of Natural Resources interns, Laci Coleman and Michael Blubaugh, recently began their summer job: searching for bats in the swamps of Moody Forest Natural Area. Theyre on the hunt for roosting Rafinesques big-eared bats (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) and Southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius).


Both of these bats are considered high-priority species in the State Wildlife Action Plan and are under review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The big-eared bat is already a Georgia-protected species and is considered rare. Both species are uncommon across their range and may someday receive federal protection if populations continue to decline.


Laci and Michael are part of a larger project done in cooperation with Bat Conservation International and many states across the Southeast. Bat Conservation International, or BCI, is leading efforts to develop a conservation plan for the Rafinesques big-eared bat and Southeastern myotis. Included are further surveys for each species across their range.


We have potential habitat for these species in Georgia but didn't have the time or money to complete the surveys, explained Trina Morris, a wildlife biologist with Georgia DNRs Nongame Conservation Section.


BCI provided funding for two interns to fill in the gaps in Georgia.


The interns will continue the work started by Matt Clement, a University of Georgia graduate student who developed survey methods for this species in Georgia over the last two years. Clement documented a few hundred roosts and nearly a thousand bats in a handful of DNR-managed lands. (See Georgia Wild, January-February 2008 under the e-newsletters tab at www.georgiawildlife.com.) Clement also helped train the interns during their first week of work at Moody Forest Natural Area in Appling County, one of the better spots in the state for these species.


Both Laci, a student at UGAs Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, and Michael, a student at Ogeechee Technical College in Statesboro, will be fulfilling internship requirements for their wildlife degrees. Morris and Clement recently led them through the swamps of Moody Forest. The interns searched known roosts to learn how to find bats in the trees. They also checked out new areas, even discovering a new maternity colony and several other roost trees.


The bats roost in large hollow trees, mostly tupelo and cypress, in bottomland hardwood swamps.


It takes a little practice learning how to use the spotlight and mirror technique, Morris said of using a mirror and reflected light to peer up into a hollow tree. But they picked it up very quickly and they were really excited when they found bats.


The team will spend the summer slogging through the swamps of South Georgia, looking for areas with trees old enough to provide good habitat for the bats. Most of the habitat for these species has been logged, and large, old trees are hard to find. The interns will have to fight the heat and cope with the elements, including snakes, alligators and biting insects.


But both are ready for the challenge and excited for the opportunity to gain experience through an internship with DNR. They will also be keeping a diary of their experiences in the field, and of course keeping track of how many bats they find.


The monthly DNR e-newsletter Georgia Wild will check in with Laci and Michael throughout the summer but also take a final look at what they learned and experienced in the September issue.


Trina Morris is a wildlife biologist with DNRs Nongame Conservation Section, part of the Wildlife Resources Division.


Georgia Wild E-Newsletter

June 2009

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