Collaboration will inventory and study Marin’s bats

06/22/2017

Marin is home to 13 of California’s 23 known bat species, and the county’s conservation agencies are eager to find out more about both their numbers and habits. Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved $6,800 in funding for a multi-year bat inventory and monitoring project, the first of its kind in the county. It’s a collaboration between agencies that participate in the One Tam campaign, including the National Park Service, Marin County Parks, California State Parks, Marin Municipal Water District and Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy. “This is really one of the first times we have all worked together toward a common goal,” said Mischon Martin, chief of natural resources and science for the county parks department, who characterized the lack of information as a “huge data gap.” She continued: “Bats are an indicator of the health of our parks and preserves and we don’t have any data on them in Marin, and so this emerged as a common priority.” Though the agencies are collectively contributing $42,000 to fund the project for the next two years, the parks department’s resource specialist, Lisa Michl, said the idea is that the project will go on for many years beyond that. Ms. Michl said the project—which will take place on all the lands of the five participating agencies—will include taking inventory and tracking the different species, with the goal of identifying their preferred habitat and maternal colony sites (where they have babies) for easier monitoring in subsequent years. The project will also allow the county to determine whether white-nose syndrome, a deadly bat disease that is moving west across the United States, has impacted bats in the region. The project will use mist nets—nylon or polyester mesh nets used commonly for research that catch bats and birds without causing them any harm—and acoustic monitoring devices to track bats, and will comply with the North America Bat Monitoring Program, a national program that outlines guidelines for bat monitoring projects. Dave Press, a wildlife ecologist for the Point Reyes Seashore, said research in the seashore involving bats has been limited to developed areas because the acoustic monitoring devices used had to be connected to a power source. “But the newer technology we will use for this project is battery operated and will allow us to monitor wilderness areas, the pastoral zone—to get to places we haven’t gone before, so we have a much fuller picture,” he said. The project will also include an educational piece, including a website, presentations at science symposia and brochures.