MacGyver has his trusty swiss army knife, Dr.Who has his sonic screwdriver and wildlife veterinarian, Michelle Verant, has her bat kit. This week on #sciencedeskdigs, we learn what goes into her bat kit. Nananananananananananananananana BatKit!
Tell us more!
One part of my job is supporting parks in understanding and managing bat populations. Sometimes this involves me actually going to parks to assess the health of bats in the field and these are some of the tools I bring with me.
First of all, I always wear gloves when handling wildlife to protect them as well as me. There are many different ways for researchers to safely catch bats - you can see some examples on nps.gov/bats. Once a bat is in hand, I look for any signs of injury or illness. A feisty, chattering bat is usually a healthy bat! I use the electronic scale to check the bat’s weight, and I use the calipers to measure the length of its forearm. These measurements together give me a pretty good idea of the bat’s body condition and overall health. If a bat is underweight, it may be sick or may not be getting the food it needs to survive. Next, I shine a UV flashlight on the bat’s wings to see if it might be affected by a fatal fungal disease called white-nose syndrome (WNS). If I see brilliant orange-yellow fluorescent spots on the wing under the UV light, the bat might have WNS. To confirm my suspicion, I can use a swab to collect a sample from the surface of the wing to test for the fungus that causes the disease.
It is important that we try to keep our bat populations healthy because aside from being fascinating animals, they are also important for our ecosystems. They are voracious insect eaters, and consume millions of insects that can carry diseases and destroy crops. I enjoy watching them swoop gracefully through the air in evenings and I think we can learn a lot from these cool and unique mammals!
Describe your workspace in one word:
My desk is like Mary-Poppins-Magic-Bag (does that count as one word)?!