Batty about bats? Concerned about the conservation of underappreciated flying mammals?
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has a volunteer opportunity for you.
As part of a long-term, nationwide survey, the DNR Wildlife Resources Division is enlisting volunteers to begin collecting acoustic data from Georgia bats in the wild this month. The project will help better monitor changes in bat populations, particularly in the face of widespread threats such as white-nose syndrome. The disease also often referred to as WNS has killed an estimated 5.7 million to 6.7 million bats.
Georgia’s 16 bat species eat insects only and use biological sonar called echolocation to navigate, communicate and find prey. The survey that wildlife biologist Trina Morris is organizing will ask volunteers to drive a 30-mile route or “transect” carrying equipment that can record and decipher bat calls by species.
“Acoustic transects provide a great opportunity for the public to be directly involved in collecting data on wildlife species in the state,” said Morris, who works with the Wildlife Resources Division’s Nongame Conservation Section. “By driving the same routes over time, we can better monitor these species and the impacts of WNS and other impacts to bats in our state.”
Protocols and an instructional video posted at www.georgiawildlife.org/AnabatProject describe how and when routes are run (30 minutes after sunset once this month and in July). A map marks where the 31 routes are in the state and which ones are open. Participating states follow similar standards.
Morris will provide the recording equipment, which is called an Anabat and was purchased for this project through a federal grant. Volunteers need a vehicle, plus the flexibility and dedication to run the routes as needed, report the data and hopefully agree to participate for more than one summer.
“We are looking for volunteers who can commit to this project for several years and are willing to help transport equipment and coordinate with other volunteers,” Morris said.
“It’s a big effort but a great opportunity for citizens to get involved with bat conservation in Georgia.”
For more information, go to www.georgiawildlife.org/AnabatProject. Interested volunteers can contact Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org or (770) 918-6411.
Georgians can also help conserve bats and other animals not hunted, fished for or trapped, as well as native plants and habitats, by purchasing or renewing a bald eagle or a ruby-throated hummingbird license plate. These license plates are vital to the Nongame Conservation Section, which receives no state general funds.
Visit www.georgiawildlife.com for more information, or call Nongame Conservation offices in Social Circle (770-761-3035), Forsyth (478-994-1438) or Brunswick (912-264-7218).