Bats, despite their ecological importance worldwide, are an understudied group. In addition, bats face many threats including White Nose Syndrome, habitat destruction, and an often negative reputation among humans. Summer foraging requirements for bats, a taxa of conservation interest, are poorly understood, especially in areas that are highly fragmented, located in an urban/suburban matrix, or in critically endangered oak savanna habitats. To increase understanding, Bowling Green State University researchers started collecting data on bat species as part of a larger, longer-term habitat study in the Oak Openings Region. During the summer of 2011, a volunteer monitoring program in conjunction with Bowling Green State University researchers was established to further the understanding of bats in the Oak Openings Region, and the purchase of additional equipment for these surveys was made possible with a grant from the National Science Foundation. These surveys took place in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2015 at Oak Openings, Wildwood, and Secor Metroparks. Through volunteer efforts, there was an increase in the amount of data that was able to be collected, and this study was also able to promote interest in bats and their conservation.
Three designated transects in different habitats within each park were monitored twice a month during June and July and once in August of 2011, 2012, and 2013 (a total of 5 times). In 2015, three transects were monitored once a month in each of the three Metroparks. Although, in 2013 and 2015, due to inclement weather conditions, there were parks that were monitored less than the planned amount of time during the three seasons, each year. (For example: In 2013, WW was monitored 4 out of 5 times, OO: 4 out of 5 times, and Secor: 2 out of 5 times planned). In 2015, Wildwood was only monitored 2/3 times.
These surveys were conducted using a broadband acoustic device called an “Anabat” detector, which is capable of recording the high frequency echolocation calls of bats. Each call was recorded and then the species was identified, using specialized software. However, some of the calls are not easily recognized by the software, and it is often a challenge to be able to identify the particular species. Teams of two to four volunteers walked each transect (starting at sunset) at a moderate pace holding the Anabat detector. The call data gathered was helpful in that it was able to provide Metroparks with baseline data as to which bat species were using the parks for foraging areas.
In addition to the Oak Openings surveys in conjunction with BGSU, Metroparks has also partnered with the Toledo Zoo in monitoring bats (using Toledo Zoo’s Anabat detector) at other Metropark locations. In 2014, Metroparks surveyed Swan Creek Preserve a total of five times throughout June, July, and August. In 2015, Metroparks surveyed Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Siegert Lake Area at Side Cut Metropark a total of three times. Ideally, our goal is to establish baseline data for every Metropark, focusing on which different types of bat species reside in and around these Metropark locations.