The Pennsylvania Game Commission is looking for volunteers to sit outside, enjoy the summer nights, and count bats. Biologists with the Game Commission will be compiling data on bat maternity colonies in the state and are now accepting applications to join the Appalachian Bat Count Monitoring Team.
Jerry Feaser, Press Secretary for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said participants have greatly benefited from this experience in years past. "It's a good way for citizen biologists, citizen wildlife managers, to get involved and to help us better understand what is going on with bat populations in various parts of the commonwealth," Feaser said.
Bat populations throughout the northeastern United States, including Pennsylvania, have been decreasing due to white-nose syndrome, a fungus that grows around the animals' nose and mouth, which impacts their resting cycle, causing them to starve to death from excessive activity. The disease is linked to the deaths of at least 5.7 million North American bats.
Monitoring the colonies can provide biologists with a good idea of how bat populations in certain areas are doing from year to year.
The fieldwork that comes with volunteering is straightforward. "Getting together a couple of nights in the summer and sitting outside areas where bats are known to roost in the daytime, and then count them as they emerge in the evening for feeding," Feaser explained.
People interested in volunteering will get information walking them through the process of timing, conducting a survey, and submitting their findings to the Game Commission.
"There's information on our website about all the ways that they need to be aware of bats and what bat areas are and to help out with the bat count," Feaser said.
Participation is open to all residents of Pennsylvania including scout groups, 4-H clubs, local environmental organizations, and individual homeowners. More information can be found at pgc.state.pa.us.