Investigating the winter ecology and physiology of desert southwest bats across an expanded temporal and geographic

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

This project will expand and refine research that has already generated species-specific information on hibernating desert southwest bats to help predict their risk to white-nose syndrome (WNS). During two years of studying hibernating bats in three high-elevation north central Arizona caves (USFWS WNS Small Grant #2018-1), we observed small hibernating population sizes (~24 bats each), solitary roosting behaviors, bats roosting at low absolute humidity, and a hibernation length that lasts roughly four months, all of which suggest low relative risk to WNS in these populations. Suggesting a possible higher level of risk, we also observed some bats roosting at temperatures within the optimal range for growth of the pathogen, although collecting accurate body temperature data was not possible with the equipment available. We propose to continue this work across additional winters and sites. We will continue using our well-defined survey protocol generated for these populations, more accurately measure bat body temperature, describe microclimate preferences, and generate results that are relevant to larger geographic area. We will use passive data collection techniques that avoid physically disturbing bats. For nine months each year (Sept-April) and at each site (n=6), we will complete monthly internal surveys, use acoustic monitoring outside hibernacula, monitor cave temperature and humidity, and collect high-resolution images of hibernating bats using a FLIR T540 thermal camera. The proposed methodological approaches will allow us to continue quantifying desert southwest hibernating bat population sizes, describe species composition and roosting behaviors in hibernacula, document relative use of shallow versus deep torpor, and describe microclimate preferences exhibited by hibernating bats. We will specifically identify hibernacula in eastern and southeastern AZ and incorporate suitable sites into our study. Anticipated outcomes include reports, presentations and peer-reviewed publications. Information contained therein will specifically describe hibernacula species abundance and composition, length of hibernation, patterns of torpor, and potential to forage and therefore replenish energy stores during winter for each species. This information is necessary for predicting risk of desert southwest bats to white-nose syndrome and will continue to inform our basic understanding of winter bat ecology in Arizona.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date9/1/208/31/22

Funding

  • DOI: US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS): $181,684.00

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