Area students, Arnold team members learn how to “Be a Bat Hero”
By Deidre Ortiz, AEDC/PA
/ Published November 19, 2018
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- As part of an educational outreach effort during International Bat Week held Oct. 24-31, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Arnold Air Force Base biologists held presentations at the Hands-On Science Center in Tullahoma and on base to provide information on bats and how they play a vital role in the environment.
The 2018 theme for International Bat Week asked everyone to “Be a Bat Hero.” Many federal agencies, universities and nonprofit organizations celebrated around the nation and internationally to share the plight of imperiled bats and explain how everyone can “be a bat hero” and help bats locally and globally.
Leslie Hay, a USFWS biologist at Arnold, along with Sarah Harrison, USFWS Tennessee Field Office biologist, and Shannon Allen, chief of National Environmental Policy Act, Natural and Cultural Resources, worked with Arnold Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) director Olga Oakley to provide a “Celebration of Bats” to a group of homeschooled students recently visiting the HOSC.
“The students learned about bat ecology, bat conservation, threats to bats such as White-Nose Syndrome, and activities that families can do to help bats, like constructing bat houses and planting bat gardens,” Hay said. “Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, another partner in the fight for bat conservation, provided a ‘Bat Education Trunk’ with various bat education materials.”
The students were also provided “Bat Conservation” folders to share with other students, friends, and family about the importance of bats and how they can help bat conservation in the Southeast region.
Then on Halloween Day, Hay and Arnold biologist John Lamb set up a display on bat ecology and AEDC bat conservation in Café 100 at the Administration and Engineering Building. Lamb has been working with bats for nearly 20 years at Arnold and has documented a steady and significant decline in three bat species listed under the Endangered Species Act. He also participates in statewide and regional bat conservation efforts.
Although bats are often feared by people, Hay advised these nocturnal mammals are nothing to be afraid of.
“They are often feared as carriers of rabies, but the incidence of rabies is very low, less than 1 percent, in all bats,” she said.
“Bats are amazing animals that are vital to the health of our environment and economy. We may not always see them, but bats are hard at work all around the world each night. They literally eat tons of insects here in the Southeastern U.S., reducing insect and pest problems for farmers and other people. In the Southwest and in the tropical regions of the world, they pollinate flowers and spread seeds that grow new plants and trees.”
Bats come in all shapes and sizes, from the bumblebee bat, which weighs less than a penny to flying foxes, which can have a wing span of up to 5 feet. They can be white, brown, black, gray, red, spotted or striped. Some of the fruit-eating bats have big eyes and long slender snouts that help them reach deep into flowers for nectar.
The only mammal that can fly, a bat’s wing structure is much like a modified human hand. The finger bones are elongated to support a thin membrane of skin that extends between each finger, arms and body. The membrane of a bat’s wing is living tissue, similar to the tiny flaps of skin joining the bases of human fingers.
These interesting creatures are in decline most everywhere with 24 percent of bats worldwide considered critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. Some of the threats bats face include habitat loss, pesticide use, destruction of roost sites, over-harvesting for bush-meat in developing countries, climate change and much more. Bat numbers in the United States and Canada have declined dramatically due to White-Nose Syndrome, which has killed over six million bats in just eight years. To learn more, visit http://batweek.org.