Tag Archives: environment

Bats on the Brain

Perhaps since I still had bats on the brain, I ran across a children’s/YA book on bats. It’s called The Bat Scientists. The author is Mary Carson and the photographer is Tom Uhlman.

 

I was really impressed with both its information and photography. The updated edition came out just this month and has the latest information on WNS and conservation.

 

Even though it’s a children’s book, it seems like a great quick introduction for adults and teenagers, and has materials in the back for further research.

 

A few facts from the book, some I knew, some were new to me.

 

Batty Facts

 

  • Bats aren’t blind-they see fairly well.
  • They aren’t going to get tangled in your hair-bats avoid people and fly too well to get in hair.
  • Bats are often called flying rats or mice, but they aren’t rodents. Some scientists think they’re primitive primate relatives.
  • They’re the only mammal capable of true flight. (As opposed to gliding.)
  • For their size, bats are the longest lived mammals on earth-even the small ones can live for 40 years! (With mammals generally the larger the size the longer the life span.)
  • Since people associate them with the short lived and fast breeding mouse, they assume bats work the same way, but bats breed very slowly-most have at most one offspring a year. The author quotes biologist Barbara French “One lost baby bat is a lost generation.”
  • Less than one half of one percent have rabies-they’re not crazy flying animals out to get you.

 

It also mentioned an interesting project I’d not heard about. The Bellamy Cave Project. Apparently Bellamy Cave in Tennessee is a major hibernation cave for the endangered gray bat. Last year the Nature Conservancy is mad a concrete cave nearby. The idea was that a concrete cave could be cleaned out and disinfected come spring, hopefully slowing the spread of WNS.

 

They had limited time last year and finished construction after hibernation started, but they did have a few guests. They’re hoping to see more visitors this year since the precast/prefabricated concrete cave will be ready and the proper temperature in time for hibernation season.

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Filed under Books, Natural Science

Bats! They’re not just for Halloween.

Geode Roosting Bat Pendant

I’ve been hoarding this bead for years waiting to find a geode slice the right size to try to make a roosting bat pendant. That’s what started the whole ‘wait, there are people that don’t know about WNS’ discussion.

 

WNS is a fungus that grows on the muzzles and wings of hibernating bats. It was first found in New York state in early 2007 and has already spread throughout the Northeastern US, north into Canada, south into Alabama and as far west as Missouri. (It was just confirmed in Arkansas this past week.)

A cluster of little brown bats exhibiting the symptoms of white-nose sydrome. Photo Credit: New York Department of Environmental Conservation

 

 

Two years ago scientists identified the fungus, recently renamed Pseudogymnoascus destructans, but identifying it hasn’t helped in finding a treatment. (Apparently it can respond to topical antifungal treatments but they aren’t sure what to do with that information.) Thus far the mortality rate for some species is up to 95% (Word geek aside-this is not decimation-this is devastation.)

little brown batThey’re trying to track the spread of the fungus, collect information about the numbers of bats infected and trace the movements of cavers that have visited infected caves.

 

Scientists think that the fungus is spread through direct contact. It’s been found in healthy bats in Europe so they suspect it might have been brought to the United States by people who brought spores back in their clothing or caving equipment.

 

The fungus grows only in low temperature climates. It can’t cope with temperatures above 20 C. It causes the bats to wake up too often when they should be hibernating. They end up starving to death because they’re up and flying and using energy in a season with nothing to hunt.

 

It’s been a huge threat to the bat populations. The little brown bats that I loved to watch in the backyard as a child might be extinct in the Northeast within two decades. (I don’t know how to get across just how much that chills me.)

 

Scientists expect if to spread to the rest of the United States and probably Canada as well, driving some of the species to extinction.

 

Nine species of hibernating bats are confirmed as being affected. Some are already on the US Endangered Species List.

The Indiana bat has been listed as endangered since the 1960s and WNS is another emerging threat.

 

 

Why should we care? Besides the whole losing a species is a loss to every other species and biodiversity is important…

Indiana bat

 

 

On an immediate and personal level-the Forest Service has estimated that with the decreased bat population at least 2.4 million pounds of insects will go uneaten a year. 2.4 MILLION, and it’s not like they weigh much. That sort of increase can mean more damage to crops, a burden especially to smaller farmers already battling atypical weather.

 

In Science they estimate the reduced bat populations could cost North American agriculture $3.7 billion a year in lost benefits of insect control and crop pollination.

 

If you’re as tasty to mosquitoes as I apparently am, that’s also a lot more itchy bites. (Plus the whole insects as vectors of disease problem…)

 

More info:

 

US Geological Service Wildlife Health Center

 

Bat Conservation International

 

The National Speleological Society with links to articles about the disease, policies and strategies for cavers.

 

BBC

 

Center for Biological Diversity Map 

 

An entertaining blog article about trying to photograph a bat: An Argument for Double Bagging

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Filed under Crafts, Natural Science

UNLESS

Stumbled on a collection of Earth Day themed poetry. A lovely compilation of thoughtful pieces, some new to me, some not.

 

I hadn’t seen this one before and really liked it.

 

Healing
By Scott Edward Anderson
“Healing, not saving.” ~ Gary Snyder

“Healing, not saving,” for healing
indicates corrective, reclaiming

restoring the earth to its bounty,
to right placement and meaning–

Forward thinking, making things new
or better or, at least, bringing back

from the edge. The way
bulbs are nestled in earth,

starting to heal again–
the way a wound heals.

Keep warm. Sun following
rain; rain following drought.

Perhaps we have come far enough
along in this world to start

healing, protecting from harm,
from our disjunctive lives.

The way the skin repairs with a scab,
injury mediated by mindfulness.

The bark of the “tree of blood”
heals wounds we cannot see.

Deliver us from the time of trial
and save us from ourselves.

  

 

Walt Kelly’s classic Pogo.

And what’s Earth day poetry without a nod to Dr. Seuss? A Seussical Earth Day Treasury!

 

 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

— Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

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Filed under Natural Science, Poetry

Clever and Concise

I think that I shall never see
a billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps, unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a tree at all.

            Ogden Nash

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Filed under Poetry