Title

Multidisciplinary Approach to Bat Conservation in the Oak Openings Region of Northwest Ohio

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Karen Root

Second Advisor

Helen Michaels (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Karen Sirum (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Moira van Staaden (Committee Member)

Fifth Advisor

Enrique Gomezdelcampo

Abstract

The Oak Openings Region of Northwest Ohio is unique in terms of the flora and fauna that exists within a relatively fragmented area. It contains more rare and endangered plant species than any other area of its size in Ohio and much is known about a number of terrestrial and aquatic animals in the area as well. One group of animals that has not been studied is that of the order Chiroptera, bats. Bats are threatened on many fronts, from the effects of human persecution, to habitat loss, to the recent effects of a deadly fungus, White Nose Syndrome.

The Oak Openings is an ideal area to study this group of animals because of its unique composition that includes many natural areas, including that of oak savannas, within an urban/suburban/agricultural matrix. My research objectives included 1) developing a spatially explicit habitat model of bat presence within protected areas of the oak openings region 2) determine the relative difference in activity and presence between forest and savanna sites within the oak openings region and 3) determine the knowledge and attitudes people of the area hold in regards to bats and then develop educational opportunities to increase knowledge and attitudes about bats.

Ecological knowledge regarding bats within protected areas, and potential habitat needs, is lacking so I began by acoustically surveying for bats using the Anabat bat detector to determine bat presence within protected areas. I then developed Maxent species distribution models for each of seven species of bats. These models were then tested using citizen science collected data. Models for all seven species performed well when tested with this data, demonstrating the use of Maxent modeling and citizen science collected data for refinement and testing of data sets. With these models I was able to determine areas of potential importance both within and outside of current protected areas as well as critical habitat characteristics for bat presence. Second, I again used Anabat acoustic devices to survey bat presence and relative activity in forest and savanna sites. Differences among these sites were apparent but differed across species. Bat species richness was not higher at forest or savanna sites, but results demonstrate that savannas are potentially used for foraging, commuting and roosting.

Third, I developed surveys that investigated the knowledge about and attitudes towards bats that the human inhabitants of the Oak Openings Region have towards bats to determine if a relationship exists between these two constructs. From the information gained from these surveys, and the knowledge gained from the ecological portion of this work, I developed and initiated educational outreach about bats. I then investigated the differences in gains in knowledge and attitudes between different types of outreach. This resulted in a multidisciplinary and holistic approach to bat conservation in the Oak Openings Region.