The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University are looking for volunteers interested in helping track bats in the dark.
DNR wildlife biologist Stephanie Shepherd says they’re looking for people to driver designated routes in Hardin, Marshall, Jackson, and Dubuque counties.
“The volunteers drive very slowly along this route with a big microphone on top of their car. What they are doing is they are recording bat calls. It gives us an idea of how much bat activity and what species are in an area,” Shepherd says. She says some people may not like the idea of being out at night with bats.
“I know that bats have a bad representation, but it’s perhaps undeserved,” Sheperd says. She says many people come across bats who have sought a place to hibernate or hide out in their homes. Shepherd says bats are very important to the ecological system.
“They help keep insect populations in check and usually don’t mess with people if they don’t have to,” she explains. The survey begins 30 minutes after sunset and take roughly two-and-a-half hours. Shepherd says you shouldn’t be concerned about coming into actual contact with bats.
She says nothing is hands-on, you are just recording the echo-location calls that bats use to find insects. “So, it’s kind of cool and it’s kind of unique way to experience the Iowa outdoors at night,” according to Shepherd. She says volunteers need a vehicle and a partner to run the survey for at least one night in June and one in July.
She says if you are interested go to their website at www.iowadnr.gov/vwmp to let the DNR know of your interest. The bat survey began in response to declining bat population from various issues including White Nose Syndrome. Data has been collected for the last four years.
Photo courtesy of the DNR.