Team Vampire, Spring 2017

Jineth Berrío-Martínez (MSc in Biology) is a researcher from Colombia who arrived in April has been travelling around Panama to find additional wild vampire bat colonies. She is working on development of biting ability in young vampire bats. 


My research interests include tropical biology, population ecology, reproductive biology, evolution, and conservation. Early in my career as a biologist, bats caught my attention, leading me to work with them for more than eight years now. Desmodus rotundus is one of my favorite bat species because of the astonishing morphological and behavioral adaptations related to their diet. Despite the fact that vampires are a common species in my home country, there are many aspects of their ecology that are unknown or poorly understood.

Without a doubt, this internship has been an extraordinary opportunity to gain experience in behavioral ecology. Gerry is teaching me about experimental design and statistical analysis. Additionally, I hope to provide valuable support to a variety of different projects from filming and measuring behavior to fieldwork. I intend to make sure that my research projects are completed with diligence.

Many of the most remarkable scientific papers I have read on tropical ecology, behavior, and evolution have been written by researchers associated with Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Here I am exposed to other researchers’ experiences studying ecological and evolutionary problems. I strongly believe the skills I will learn and the collaborations I will establish during this internship will be an important platform for achieving my future academic goals. I plan to improve my research skills and pursue a PhD in Ecology and Conservation abroad.

Katharina Eggert is from Germany and visited STRI from March until May 2017. She helped with a broad variety of projects including scoring cooperation in vampire bats, maintaining a system of monitoring bat roosts, and measuring exploration of novel objects by young and old vampire bats.


I have always had an interest in the ecology and conservation of the flora and fauna of the tropical rainforests. Before interning at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute with Dr. Gerald Carter, I had worked at field stations in Ecuador and Peru. My interest in bats started in spring 1994 when a small colony of Pipistrellus pipistrellus moved into a crevice above my window, and decided to return every year thereafter. I have spent many summers watching “my” bats and they motivated me to join and volunteer for our local conservation organisation. During my internship at STRI I had a unique opportunity to study cooperative behaviour and social bonds in the common vampire bat. I learned about designing and evaluating research projects that focus on social interactions. In addition, I assisted with a range of different bat-related projects in Gamboa and Barro Colorado Island. This enabled me to gain a wide range of valuable bat-relevant field skills.


Hugo Narizano is from France and visited STRI from February to May. He is currently a MSc student at Edinburgh Napier University with Jason Gilchrist, and is studying the relationships between self-grooming and social grooming in vampire bats.

My interest in biology, especially ethology and wildlife, started as a child when I was living on a former farm in a small village. Growing up surrounded by a wide range of different animals, including some mysterious bats, triggered my desire to devote my life to animals. I started to be particularly interested in the similarities between humans and non-human animal sociality. This project was my first opportunity to work with bats, and with the common vampire bat, which I consider to be one of the most interesting bat species. I am learning more about designing and running experiments. Also, this project has enabled me to meet intelligent and inspiring people from STRI studying different topics and species. I have learned more about science as a whole. This project has taught me about what it takes to become a competent scientist.

After I graduate from Edinburgh Napier University, I am willing to conduct another research project with vampire bats, or on a different topic with bats, such as the interaction between Nepenthes hemsleyana, a pitcher plant, and Kerivoula hardwickii, the Hardwicke’s woolly bats [see past blogpost]. In the near future, I also wish to follow on with a PhD focusing on bat behaviour or ecology preferably, or possibly on a eusocial species.


Samuel Kaiser (MSc in Biology) arrived in June from Germany and is currently conducting a thermal preference experiment in vampire bats. The goal is to see if captive-born vampire bats without any past experience have an innate preference for warm blood.

It is hard to pinpoint my interests. I like animal behaviour – how animals communicate, interact and socialise. I’m also interested in how animals are affected by the environment and humans. Previously, I studied microplastic pollution and its effect on Daphnia magna. Then, starting an internship at the Max-Planck-Institute for Ornithology (Seewiesen, Germany), I discovered my fascination for bats and their use of echolocation to orient and hunt. After conducting experiments on passive-listening in the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum), I switched my focus to studying thermoperception in the tropical bat Phyllostomus discolor. This ultimately lead me to the internship at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Gamboa, Panama with Dr. Gerald Carter and Dr. Rachel Page to learn more about the common vampire and its preferences for warm blood. My fascination with the common vampire is based in its ability to sense infrared radiation. This internship is a great opportunity for me to study tropical bats, and I have always wanted to do fieldwork in the tropics. In the future, I plan to travel around Central America and later start a PhD in animal behaviour.


Sebastian Stockmaier is a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin in Dan Bolnick`s lab. This is Basti’s fifth field season in Panama and his second season working on vampire bats. He is studying the influence of sickness on cooperative behaviors in vampire bats.  

Despite my passion for being outside and for all the wildlife out there, I chose to spend most of my undergraduate research in laboratories working on virus-cell interactions (Institute Pasteur in Paris) and phylogenetic classification of some mysterious African bat viruses (Robert Koch Institute in Berlin). I then started a Masters program in organismal and evolutionary biology at the University of Konstanz, where I worked with Dina Dechmann and Teague O`Mara on several bat and bird species, as well as on tiny European shrews.

My masters at the University of Konstanz taught me–besides the fundamentals of evolution, ecology, and behavior–about the beauty of getting out into the field. Some formative influences included several research projects at STRI in Panama, and a spontaneous research trip to Kasanka National Park in Zambia, a spot known among bat researchers for a massive seasonal gathering of flying foxes. Having experienced biology in both the field and lab, I am trying to bridge the gap in pursuing some of my research questions. For my doctoral degree, I joined Dan Bolnick’s lab at the University of Texas. One of the main questions in our lab revolves around how pathogens interact with their hosts , a topic which involves ecology, behavior, and evolutionary genetics. I am generally interested in how transmissible pathogens shape group-living, and how they influence the evolution of social traits. I am also interested in how social behaviors of hosts can shape the evolutionary trajectories of a pathogen. I am trying to tackle some questions using vampire bats, and for other questions, I plan to establish experiments in Austin using aggregating C. elegans genotypes and a nematode pathogen. Since I enjoy teaching as well as research, I would like to further pursue a career in academia.

Along with Basti, Rachel Crisp has also worked in both 2016 and 2017. She is studying social dominance in female vampire bats.

“Team Vampire” is part of the Rachel Page Bat Lab at STRI.

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