Chadron State College students enrolled in Dr. Teresa Frink’s Wildlife Research and Management Techniques (AGRI 426) course are helping two government agencies with a bat monitoring project to gain a better understanding of local populations regarding conservation and viability.
Frink said Erin Considine, wildlife biologist with the Pine Ridge Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, and Shelley Steffl, wildlife biologist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, contacted her about CSC cooperating with the project. Both agencies are providing acoustic monitoring equipment and the two biologists trained the students how to use the devices.
“We showed them what to look for when trying to set the equipment up, things that might improve or cause a decline in the quality of the calls the bats make, create large amounts of background noise, etc. But after that, it was up to the student groups to go out on the landscape and choose their locations. We wanted them to have the opportunity to make the decisions themselves on things like equipment placement and be responsible for data collection at those sites. They are also responsible for equipment upkeep,” Steffl said.
The monitors will be placed in suitable bat habitat at about 12 total locations during the fall semester within six Pine Ridge regions to collect data for one to two weeks. Additional data will be gathered in the spring.
Considine said she will analyze the recordings.
“The findings will be used to inform land managers including the U.S. Forest Service and Nebraska Game and Parks Commission regarding what bat species are present on the landscape and where they are. We can also look at how many calls are recorded each night and make some inferences about when bats leave the area during the winter and when they return in the spring,” Considine said.
Steffl added that the information gathered will potentially help to determine habitat management activities that will help maximize bat habitat.
Frink said it has always been one of her goals to provide opportunities for students in the field and get experience using equipment.
“I remember how difficult it was to get job without experience so I want this project, along with others, to help them get internships and get jobs,” Frink said.
Kaldon Meininger of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, said he appreciates the opportunity for real-life assignments.
“I learn more from hands-on projects. This is a great resume-builder,” Meininger said.
Sam Green of Omaha, Nebraska, said he looks forward to working outside the classroom.
“This is a fantastic, high-impact opportunity. It’s right outside our back door. You can’t pass that up,” Green said.
Considine is grateful for the help from CSC students.
“Having the help of the CSC students is immensely helpful. There are a very limited number of us who can move these devices throughout the winter and spring. With the students’ help we will hopefully get much more data which will make the results of this study way more impactful,” Considine said.