DES MOINES — Volunteers are needed once again this summer to drive around and track the bat population.
DNR wildlife diversity biologist, Stephanie Shepherd, says the volunteers record the noises bats make as the fly through the night. “Echolocation is what they’re doing. It’s how they find their prey, while they’re flying, they they’re making a noise, it’s bouncing off of their prey or other objects, and it bounces back to them. And they’re able to kind of interpret that sound wave,” Shepherd says.
The DNR has teamed with Iowa State University for the last ten years to track the bat signals. “We can interpret those calls and actually identify them to species,” she says. “So what volunteers for the survey do, we provide them with equipment, and they stick a big microphone on top of their car, and then they drive really slowly along a specified route.”
Shepherd says the survey begins 30 minutes after sunset and takes roughly two-and-a-half hours to complete. “We are looking for volunteers in Pocahontas County, Dubuque County, two routes in Franklin County — one in southwest Franklin and one in southeast Franklin, and then southwest Marshall County,” she says.
Shepherd says they will train you before sending you out. “It’s pretty much set up so that you don’t have to be a technical genius or anything. And really, you just have to pay attention to what the weather requirements are. And yeah, it’s not a big technical ask,” Shepherd says. “And it’s given us some really important data on how kind of trends and bat populations in the state.” The survey routes are run in June and July.
If you might be interested in monitoring bats, go to the DNR web page at iowadnr.gov/vwmp to sign up.