The 150 species of bats in North America provide many benefits to humans, including insect consumption and plant pollination. But as the 20th century progressed, North American bats faced growing threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation. Two additional major threats have emerged in the new millennium: wind energy development and the fungal white nose syndrome. Beyond this general picture, however, little was known about many bat populations. No coordinated program to monitor all bats across North America, like efforts for birds or amphibians, had been established. CBI was asked to help build and support a team of federal and state scientists from across different disciplines and institutions to create the North American Bat Monitoring Initiative (NABat).
CBI’s first step was to build consensus within the North American bat community on feasible monitoring techniques and protocols. To build a framework for the process, CBI helped convene a series of intensive technical workshops. The first, held in April 2012, brought together a wide variety of scientists including bat field biologists, population geneticists, population modelers, statisticians, and database experts. CBI worked with presenters and helped technical participants tease out the differences in their methodologies while also seeking to integrate their expertise. Consequently, funding was obtained for three additional workshops. The second workshop was dedicated to gathering information on other large-scale monitoring programs and to learning from others’ successes and failures. The third meeting, sponsored by the National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), concentrated on fleshing out the grid design and how it would be applied to acoustic monitoring and colony counts, along with determining analytical approaches for the data. The final workshop, held in November 2013, finalized the details of the sampling design and analytical approaches.
Led by a team of committed U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other scientists, CBI helped NABat participants produce a USFS General Technical Report outlining the national monitoring program’s methods and overall approach. That effort was recognized with a USFS “Wings across America” award.