Using acoustic surveys of bat echolocations and hierarchical modeling, I am assessing how bat occupancy and activity levels vary across disturbance gradients and habitat types in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
During 2014-17 we conducted acoustic surveys of forest bat species in 3 wildfire areas and within surrounding unburned forests. We are using these data to evaluate the effects of wildfire and post-fire management on the bat community. One publication in Scientific Reports shows that in contrast to overly dense fire-suppressed forests, many bat species respond positively to wildfire, and that bat richness maximizes in forests with previous moderate- to high-severity wildfire and high levels of pyrodiversity (i.e. variation in severity). This publication has been adapted for teens by Science Journal for Kids. For some popular science takes on this research, see articles by Sierra Magazine, UC Davis, Newsweek, Scientific American, and the Smithsonian Magazine.
In addition to peer-reviewed articles published and in preparation, this project has resulted in three technical reports ( here, here and here ), and the first version of a spatial predictive tool designed to inform forest service management of bat habitats in burned landscapes.
Starting in 2017, surveys were expanded to two National Park wilderness areas and recordings were conducted coincident with temporary weather stations and throughout the summer season, allowing for assessments of bat phenology and activity fluctuations in response to weather. Additionally, I am testing the potential of lightweight smartphone-compatible bat detectors as citizen science tools. Bat data in wilderness areas are particularly difficult to gather and backpackers armed with such tools could dramatically increase our reach into these remote areas.