When you need to find Batman, Gotham City’s commissioner shines the Bat Signal in the night sky. To find bats in Iowa, you use something a little more high tech.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is looking for volunteers to help search for bats in two more central Iowa counties. Stephanie Shepherd, a DNR wildlife diversity biologist, says you won’t have to actually look for bats with your eyes as it’s an all-acoustic search.
“You get a big microphone stuck on the top of your car and then it’s recorded on a special detector that records their echo-location calls,” Shepherd says. “You can tell when a bat is flying over, the noises the detector makes, you can tell that it’s recording a bat.”
Volunteers are needed in Hamilton and Marshall counties. They’ll need a vehicle and a partner to run the driving portion of the survey. It’ll be done twice within seven days during a two-week window in July. The driving survey begins 30 minutes after sunset and takes roughly two-and-a-half hours. Shepherd says the gadgets you’ll take along do all the work, recording bats’ calls from the roof-mounted mic.
“That information gets post-processed and a program can identify the bat species by the sonogram of the echo-location call, it’s pretty nifty,” Shepherd says. “It gives us a way to collect data on a lot of species of bats without people having to handle bats or look for bats at night.” Iowa has nine species of bats and Shepherd says four of them are of “conservation concern,” meaning, they’re not officially endangered but they’re definitely in trouble.
“Bats as a group, they’re having a lot of struggles right now,” Shepherd says. “The survey that we have in place is meant to keep an eye on those populations and see what’s going on, especially in response to White Nose Syndrome.” That disease can infect hibernating bats with a deadly fungus that’s wiped out millions of bats in Iowa and at least 32 other states in the past dozen years.
This will be the seventh year for the surveys in Iowa.
Learn more about the project and how to volunteer at: www.iowadnr.gov/vwmp/