Dr. Rodney van der Ree works with Earthwatch volunteers to identify the critical habitat requirements of bats.
Says Dr. van der Ree: “There are more than 1,000 species of bats worldwide; in Australia, they account for about 25% of all mammalian species. Many species of bats still persist in urban areas, in contrast to other mammals, which are often locally extinct in cities. But perhaps not for long. If we don’t take the needs of bats into account when we build and develop our new suburbs, we will drive them to extinction too. I’m trying to understand what bats need to survive in urbanizing landscapes to ensure that future developments provide those important habitats for them.”
What do you like about field research?
“Every backyard we surveyed, even those in the inner suburbs of Melbourne, had bats feeding on insects. Water bodies are important habitats for bats because they support the insects that bats munch on. Bats like to sleep under possum guards (metal or plastic sheets placed around tree trunks to prevent possums from getting into the trees). Inner-city parks and gardens have resident populations of bats that sleep in tree hollows during the day and forage at night, year after year. Bats are cool. Most people don’t realize this because they are small, active at night, and communicate ultrasonically. But they are all over the city!”