The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Iowa State University are looking for volunteers interested in performing night-time surveys for bats in Hardin, Marshall, Jackson and Dubuque counties.
The survey monitors occurrence of bats in key areas of the state. It began in response to the declining population of bats as a result of White-Nose Syndrome, among other challenges, according to the DNR.
White-nose syndrome is a fungal growth around the muzzles and on the wings of hibernating bats and was first identified in 2006. By 2012 it had killed at least 5.7 million bat deaths, reducing populations by more than 90 percent in some areas.
The U.S. Forest Service estimated in 2008 that the die-off from white-nose syndrome means that at least 2.4 million pounds of insects would go uneaten and become a financial burden to farmers, possibly leading to crop damage or having other economic impact.
It is estimated that bats save farmers in the U.S. 3 billion dollars annually in pest control services, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department. Bats also provide crucial pollination and seed dispersal services.
This four-county Iowa survey uses acoustic recording equipment mounted on top of a car to detect bats along specific routes. Data has been collected on these standardized survey routes for the last four years.
Volunteers will need a vehicle and a partner to run the survey and be available for at least one night in June and one night in July. The survey begins 30 minutes after sunset and takes roughly 2.5 hours to complete.
The total time commitment, including the two surveys and picking up and dropping off equipment, is roughly 10 hours. More details can be found at the DNR website as well as a volunteer interest form that should be downloaded, completed and returned via email.
For more information, call Stephanie Shepherd, Iowa DNR wildlife diversity biologist, 515-432-2823, ext. 102.