"While white-nose syndrome hasn’t been detected on Newfoundland; both species of bats that are known residents of the island are at risk."
If a bat calls in the forest, Dr. Erin Fraser wants to hear it.
Bats are an important part of a healthy ecosystem. In Canada, many species of these long-lived animals hibernate in caves and mines during the winter and consume large amounts of insects during the summer. Many bat species in eastern North America are experiencing catastrophic population declines as a result of white-nose syndrome, a pathogen caused by an invasive fungus that infects bats during hibernation. The disease has been spreading quickly in recent years and while white-nose syndrome hasn’t been detected on Newfoundland; both species of bats that are known residents of the island are at risk.
Bats in Newfoundland have received comparatively little study; Dr. Fraser is working with ecologists Dr. Darroch Whitaker and Janet Feltham at Gros Morne and Terra Nova National Parks to better understand the status, population dynamics and distribution of bats in both parks. They also aim to identify the best approach for effectively monitoring park bats in the future.
Bats can be difficult to capture and observe. One useful method for learning about their activity is acoustic monitoring. Bats use echolocation to navigate in the dark, producing calls and using the echoes of those calls to learn about their environment.
Specialized bat detectors can be set up and left outside for weeks at a time, recording the high frequency echolocation calls of local bats. Later, researchers can use these recordings to learn about the species of bats that are present, as well as the importance of different habitats for bats at different times of the year.
The national parks have purchased 12 bat detectors and park resource conservation technicians have been working hard to collect recordings of local bats. In the summer of 2014, Tara Gadoua, a student in Grenfell’s sustainable resource management program, completed a summer residency at the Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point. During her residency, she worked with park staff to collect short-term acoustic monitoring data for inclusion in the pilot season of an international bat monitoring project. Currently, Grenfell student Nicole Shanahan is analyzing additional recordings from the parks for her honours thesis in environmental science (biology).
Acknowledgement: Dr. M.B. Fenton