For the first time in Rutgers history, a formal survey of the bats inhabiting the Rutgers EcoPreserve is being conducted. On a weekly basis, members of the Maslo Lab (https://sites.rutgers.edu/brooke-maslo/) trek into the Preserve after dark to catch and catalog bat species. Bats are caught using mist nets, which are fine mesh nets mounted to metal poles extending up to 30 feet in the air and suspended across trails or streams (think backyard badminton!). Captured bats are removed from the nets and uniquely marked with metal arm bands issued by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. The team also collects a small skin tissue biopsy and fecal samples from each bat to study population genetics and dietary preferences.
So far, the Preserve appears rife with bats. In just three nights of sampling, the team has captured over 60 bats, mostly the common big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), and a few red bats (Lasiurus borealis). They also captured a male silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), a species rarely caught in mist nets! These migratory bats spend the summer in NJ and fly south in the Fall to hibernate in a milder climate.
On the night of June 6, the team was ecstatic to capture a federally threatened species – the northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis)! This species has been decimated by White-nose Syndrome, a fungal disease originating in Europe and accidently brought to North America. Because of the declines (up to 99% in some places), northern long-eared bats gained federal protection in 2015.
The mist nets also caught an eastern screech owl (Megascops asio) and a flying squirrel (Glaucomys volans).
The team, led by Dr. Brooke Maslo and project manager Kathleen Kerwin, includes Ecology and Evolution graduate student Bobby Kwait, undergraduates Justin Martinez, Kiera Malone, Lara Watrous, Janice Rachumi, and recent graduates Tanner Yuhas, Sherry Tirgrath, Chris Giaquinto, Brianna Coyle, and Irene Fedyshyn. Like the Rutgers Wildlife Conservation and Management Facebook to follow updates on survey results!