Field Course in Barro Colorado Island

AnComm Panama grp photo

I just spent 2 amazing weeks at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at Barro Colorado Island, Panama as part of a graduate student course led by Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler, Annette Denzinger, Jerry Wilkinson, and Cindy Moss— all leading authorities on vocal behavior in bats. I worked with two German students, Diana Shoeppler and Marie Manthey, on the echolocation and social call behavior of the free-tailed bat Molossus molossus (below). Other teams studied bat species diversity in treefall gaps, temporal patterns in the avian dawn chorus,  and chorusing in frogs.

Photo by Courtney Platt (click for website)

Our team found that Molossus molossus has an extraordinary number of alternating frequencies in its search phase echolocation calls (up to 6 tones). We also found that the bats responded to distress call playbacks. More on that later…

Other highlights included learning about the local birds and frogs, two new bat species, a talk by Mirjam Knoernschild, and talking briefly with PhD student (and talented artist) Jacqueline Dillard about adjustments for Hamilton’s rule under monogamy.

If all goes well, I’ll be doing a postdoc here working with Rachel Page and Yossi Yovel immediately after I graduate next year (fingers crossed).

The absolute highlight of my trip was watching the very charismatic Trachops cirrhosus respond to rewarded playbacks with Inga Geipel.  See this video. Below is a picture of Rachel Page hand-feeding one with pieces of fish. Apparently, they can train the bats to do this within one night.

(photo by Carrie Webber; stolen without permission from Rachel’s website).

Such an extraordinary bat.

Here’s a photo of Trachops exiting a roost in Belize by Brock Fenton.

Trachops cirrhosus by Brock Fenton

And some pics I took of the bats inside the same roost:


Now back to the vampire bat food sharing project….


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