Bat Research at Saint Mary’s College

(mellow music) My name is Dr. Laura Kloepper. I am a bioacoustician here at the biology department at Saint Mary’s College. And I would like to tell you about some really cool research I did with my students this summer So I study biosonar, which is echolocation in animals. Bats and dolphins both use biosonar. And these animals have been studied for decades to try to better improve manmade sonar. And I study these bats in these really large caves because everything that we know right now about biology and math tells us that they shouldn’t be able to echolocate when they’re in these really large groups. So that means that we’re missing something. So this summer, I took two students on an eight week cross country road trip, as we traveled across the southwest to nine different bat caves. We went to these different caves to study the echolocation or the biosonar of bats when they’re leaving from these really large cave colonies. And by better understanding how the bats are using their sonar, we can better improve our manmade sonar devices. For this research project, I’m studying Mexican free-tailed bats, and how environmental factors affect their emergence time. Emergence time will affect their foraging time, which foraging time is the time they have to eat and gather their food, so if they have less time to forage then they’ll eventually starve. My role this summer in our research will be analyzing data, helping set up microphones and the GoPros. When bats emerge from their caves they come out in varying densities and I wanna see how their echolocation, which helps them navigate, how that changes as well. The students far exceeded my expectations of what I was hoping we would accomplish this summer. I told them at the end of the summer that the research they were doing far surpassed that of a master’s level research program and I was so impressed by the work that they had done. It’s highly unusual across other institutions that students, undergraduate students get to do research of this level. But here at Saint Mary’s it’s actually quite common. That’s one of the things that makes Saint Mary’s so unique is that students are so strong and those student professor relationship is so great they have the opportunity to do this kind of work with professors.

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