Development of a North American Bat Monitoring Program

Research Issue

Despite their importance and the many threats facing their populations (e.g., White-nose Syndrome [WNS], climate change, wind energy development, and habitat loss and fragmentation), there are currently no national programs to monitor and track bat populations in North America. A statistically rigorous and coordinated bat monitoring program is critical for determining the impacts of the many stressors on bat populations, as well as for determining the efficacy of management actions to conserve bat populations (i.e., adaptive management). The implementation of a robust bat monitoring program and the establishment of an appropriate database that can be used to manage data from this effort are identified as high priorities in the national WNS response plan.

Our Research

We are partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USGS, National Park Service, and National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) to organize a series of three workshops of statisticians and bat biologists to design a bat population monitoring sampling frame. Data management will be a considerable part of this effort. The objectives of the project are to:

  1. Design a statistically robust and logistically feasible probabilistic sampling frame for bat population monitoring at local and national scales
  2. Upgrade the Bat Population Data (BPD) Project to provide a web-based application to store data collected from local and national monitoring efforts.

The sampling frame will be applicable at both the local (e.g., National Forest or National Wildlife Refuge) and continental scales. An important challenge will be developing analytical methods to combine multiple independent sampling design frames, each with different response variables (i.e., count data from hibernacula and maternity colonies and detection/non-detection data from mist-net and acoustic sampling) to make inferences about species at the continental scale. Alternatively, meta-analyses or other approaches may be necessary to formally bring together the findings from multiple efforts. Methods also need to be developed to incorporate data collected outside a probability based design with data collected under a formal design.

Expected Outcomes

The ultimate goal of the three workshops will be an internationally accepted sampling protocol and analytical methods that will be the basis for a coordinated interagency bat monitoring program across North America. We anticipate producing a technical document that will provide the details necessary to implement a bat monitoring program at local (e.g., a National Forest or Fish and Wildlife Refuge), regional (e.g., states or Landscape Conservation Cooperatives) and national/international scales.

This document will also provide a review of the process resulting in the agreed upon sampling framework as well as the statistical basis for the sampling frame. The necessary protocols will also be developed to step the program down to the field level. Once the data needs are established, all necessary modifications will be made to the Bat Population Data (BPD) Project, an initiative by the USGS Fort Collins Science Center to foster data sharing and collaboration through enterprise-class data management and hosting services, including a full-featured, web-based bat population data management application.

Research Principal Investigators

  • Susan Loeb, Southern Research Station, RWU-4157
  • Jeremy Coleman, National WNS Coordinator, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Laura Ellison, USGS Fort Collins Science Center
  • Tom Rodhouse, NPS Upper Columbia Basin Inventory and Monitoring Network
  • Tom Ingersoll, National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis