Swooping in just in time for Halloween is Bat Week (Oct. 24 – 31, 2023), a week to bring awareness and recognition to these often misunderstood animals that play a vital role in the ecosystem. Bats act as a natural pest control, with some species known to consume up to nearly 600 insects per day. This includes moths, termites, mosquitos and other critters that can be pesky and cause significant damage to plants and wood. Bats are also exclusive pollinators to many plants across desert and tropical climates.

Mexican free-tailed bat in flight.
Mexican free-tailed bat in flight. (National Park Service/B.T. Hamilton)

Due to threats from disease and climate change, bat populations in North America and beyond are considered to be endangered. At the Student Conservation Association, interns work to help monitor bat populations and provide critical research efforts.

Bat Cave Hibernacula Survey Interns

Bats are one of the most important wildlife at El Malpais National Monument in northwest New Mexico. Conservation efforts are underway to understand their population dynamics, roost sites and impacts on them from monument visitors, environmental changes and white-nose syndrome (WNS). WNS, a fungal disease spreading westward and decimating many bat populations, is expected to arrive in New Mexico within the next few years. SCA crew members assist staff in conducting bat counts in over 200 lava tube caves, looking for indications of the disease, detecting signs of disturbance using Forward Looking InfraRed camera and acoustical monitoring devices, and collecting cave microclimate data.

Bat Monitoring Interns

At Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, SCA crew members work during the summer and winter seasons to identify bat roosts and make population counts of cave and structure bat roosts. This internship also contributes to field surveys and stationary monitoring in association with state and national cooperative efforts to evaluate winter bat populations to assess the impacts of White Nose Syndrome.

Eastern small-footed bat
Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), Mammoth Cave National Park. (National Park Service)