WNS and Bat Projects: Using RFID technology to monitor occupancy, fidelity and movement between maternity roosts used by little brown bats
PI: John Traener
Funding was used to further develop a comprehensive monitoring program for bats at Yellowstone National Park (YELL). A task agreement with the Ohio University was established ($60,000) to support a graduate student advised by Dr. Joseph Johnson. The objective of the project is to develop a monitoring program for maternity colonies of little brown bats (MYLU) using radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. Several roosts (building attics) in YELL are known to be critical for the continued reproductive success of MYLU, which has been severely impacted by white-nose syndrome (WNS). During 2016, YELL worked with an RFID technology company to develop a high-frequency data logging receiver, which records and stores information on individually marked bats. Software was updated to include Bluetooth capability, which allows data to be downloaded without entering the roost and disturbing the bats. Custom antennas were tuned to maximize their read range and multiple tests were conducted on an array of antennas connected to a single reader. These RFID monitoring systems were deployed in 3 building attics that are known to serve as maternity roosts for MYLU. Approximately 32% of the tagged bats (n=130 female MYLU) are being scanned by the monitoring system. Bats that were tagged in 2015 were recorded by the monitoring systems during June 2016, which documented that known female MYLU survived the winter and showed fidelity to their maternity roosts. The system has documented the use of park buildings by tagged bats during winter and identified the movement of bats between roosts separated by dozens of kilometers. These data provide important information on the occupancy, fidelity, and movements of marked bats between roosts. The monitoring of RFID tagged bats will provide valuable information on the connectivity of reproductive MYLU colonies and allow managers to prioritize WNS recovery efforts.