Studying bats at Mount Auburn
Have you seen any bats at Mount Auburn? Where have you seen them? I’m Chris Richardson, a professor in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics division at Lesley University. I am a physiological ecologist, and am currently studying the energy cost and immune response of bats who are fighting White Nose Syndrome in the spring, when they are trying to reproduce. Together with several undergraduate students and Regina Harrison, Executive Assistant at Mount Auburn, I have been investigating bat species and their activity at the Cemetery, looking for information to help us identify the location and presence of bats in this incredible urban ecosystem.
So far, using acoustic bat detectors and mist nets, we have found three different species. We have caught twelve adult male big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) using mist nets, all of which have been banded and released, and we are trying determine if females with pups are roosting here as well. We are also currently assessing whether they have the fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome, which has killed millions of bats in the Northeast U.S. since 2007. Our acoustic detectors have identified that in addition to big brown bats, red bats (Lasiurus borealis) and the rare hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) are active at Mount Auburn as well. We have also seen red bats flying on Auburn Lake and Halcyon Lake. A question raised by our findings is whether certain hot spots of acoustic activity reflect crucial habitat in the Cemetery to support bats. Also, could red bats and big brown bats co-exist on Auburn Lake? Red bats have been observed foraging before dusk on the south side of the lake, while big brown bats have been observed foraging after dusk on the north side.
In the past, little research had been done on mammals such as bats that are found at Mount Auburn. Today, however, faculty and students from Lesley and citizen science volunteers are gathering crucial data on animal and plant species throughout the Cemetery as part of a larger biodiversity survey project of this important urban ecosystem. We invite you to help us too – if you see any bats while visiting Mount Auburn, you can email me to report your sightings (or if you are interested in volunteering to help us with the on-going acoustic survey of bats at night, please get in touch).
Chris Richardson, Ph.D., Lesley College of Liberal Arts and Sciences