Implementing the North American Bat Monitoring Program Through Citizen Science in Nebraska
January 2016 - November 2018
Bats are incredibly important to both ecosystems and humans. Their significance is demonstrated through the ecosystem services they provide, which include seed dispersal, pollination, and insect population control. Within states whose economy is largely dependent on agriculture, such as Nebraska, ecosystem services provided by bats are of particular significance. Pest control services from bats are valued between $3.7 and $53 billion dollars each year in savings for the agricultural industry. This is largely because bats are voracious predators of nocturnal insects, including significant agricultural and forest ecosystem pests. Only a handful of scientists have done extensive research on the bats of Nebraska. Those who have been working in the state have provided valuable information, but gaps of knowledge do exist in the state. With a majority of the work that has been done being focused on netting-based data collection, the state could benefit from a wide scale acoustic analysis of all of the species present. This is especially important now given the impending impacts of wind turbines and White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) that have the potential to negatively affect the bats of Nebraska. The more we are able to understand how the bats of Nebraska live within the landscape the better prepared we will be able to protect their habitat, lower the impacts of WNS, and wind energy development. The North American Bat program (NABat) is a national protocol designed to streamline data collection and encourage collaboration across ecoregions in order to allow for broad understanding of bat ecology, populations, and habitat usage. This project used NABat to study the full range of bats found in the state of Nebraska, determining the habitat characteristics that influence bat presence and absence across Nebraska using a combination of stationary and mobile ultrasound acoustic detectors. A secondary focus of the project will be to determine the ability of mobile transects to detect shifts in bat population trends. The combined use of stationary points and mobile transects establish a framework for determining the distribution of bat species across the state.