My entire childhood up until I graduated high school, I was confident that I would be working with animals as a veterinarian. However, after volunteering at small animal clinics for two years, I realized that I no longer desired to become a veterinarian. My interests changed to wanting to invest time in conserving wildlife. I was enthralled by conservation courses in college and research that used biology to aid in protecting species. My first internship to try to gain experience in the field led me to a research station called Para la Tierra in Paraguay. My independent proposal was looking into the movement of Rococo Toads. The study was to look at the homing ranges of these species to determine the effectiveness of pest removal.
My experience in Paraguay was so impactful that I wanted to continue fieldwork on similar projects. I applied for an internship with the Division of Wildlife through Ohio State University. For three months, I learned how to radio-track and mist-net bats while also conducting vegetation surveys. The goal of the research was to look at roost selection of eastern red bats in undisturbed and disturbed habitat to determine better management techniques for a new property that the Division of Wildlife had obtained.
This internship eventually led into a full-time position where I was also able to manage other projects, such as a mobile acoustic study looking at the change in activity and species composition after white-nose syndrome was discovered in Ohio. Working with state government taught me about the barriers in trying to conserve bats. The Division always tries to create policies and standards using the most recent research, but there is surprisingly little information on bat migration patterns, their roosting habits, or even their diets to help guide their protection. In addition, the majority of land in the state was privately owned, and many residents held negative stigmas about bats and did not understand their importance. My frustration at the lack of data to aid in conservation along with my wonderment at the behavior of bats led me to applying to obtain a Masters of Science at Ohio State University.
My goal is to incorporate the study of bat behavior with conservation. My thesis project will involve determining the sensory factors that are involved when a bat chooses a roost. Using experimental roost boxes, we hope to determine if olfactory cues, acoustic cues, or a combination of the two are significant in the choice of roosts by temperate and tropical bats. Obtaining information about the sensory cues involved in roost selection could aid in attracting bats to artificial roosts for conservation purposes in the future.
This summer, Bridget plans to conduct experiments in Ohio and Panama on olfactory cues for roost selection. In the meantime, she’s been learning about statistical analyses with R.