One of the goals of the North Lakeland Discovery Center, a nonprofit environmental education center in northern Wisconsin, is to connect our community to the natural world. We do this through outdoor education programs, hikes, lectures, workshops and most importantly, citizen science. Our citizen science project this summer and early fall was our Bat Walk and Live Education Bat Programs.

North Lake Land Discovery Center Bat Survey Results

Results from the June acoustic bat survey show we encountered a few Big and Little Brown bats on the Discovery Center property.

Throughout the summer we offered three Bat Talk and Walk programs. Professional naturalist and bat enthusiast with over nine years of bat education, care and monitoring experience, Licia Johnson, paired a presentation on bats in Wisconsin with our live education bats, with time outdoors at night with two different types of acoustic bat monitoring devices.

Importance of Citizen Science

These citizen science surveys have become increasingly important over time and this was a great way to get folks not only updated on the status of bats, but have them become a part of the solution. Surveys provide important data on bat abundance and location that allow us to see the health of the animals.

White Nose Syndrome was found in our state in 2014 and we have seen a significant drop in bat numbers. WNS is a fungus that causes hibernating bats to wake up mid-winter and become active, using up precious stored energy, causing them to starve to death before winter is over.

Becoming a Citizen Scientist

Many of the participants were not sure about how they felt about bats, but were amazed at their unique adaptations and their importance in the natural world. We spent an extra hour outside at night under a clear sky with the detectors listening to bats because folks were so fascinated!

Citizen science monitoring for bats at night

The group heads out during the July program to detect bats. We brought along two different bat detectors: the AnaBat Acoustic detector and the Echometer Touch that connects to an iPad. Both take the sonar that humans cannot hear on their own and turn it into a sound we can here, along with a sonogram of the call. It was fun to compare the two pieces of equipment when we were picking up bat sonar.

One session included a young girl who was passionate about bats. It makes us hopeful to have young stewards out there that will work hard to increase knowledge and conservation on these incredibly important mammals.

Supplies for bat monitoring and education for citizen science

We were able to purchase supplies for our live education big brown bats. This included live meal worms and all the supplements and vitamins that are blended up weekly and fed to the bats through a syringe. This ensures the bats have a well-rounded diet that increases their life span and keeps them in good health. Several educational books were purchased for programming and displays in our nature center.

We are so thankful to the Natural Resources Foundation of WI’s C.D. Besadny Conservation Grant Program for funding this incredibly important opportunity for our community!

This guest blog was contributed by the North Lakeland Discovery Center.