Wild Spartans: Protecting Michigan's Bats with John DePue

October 26, 2020

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Join biologist John DePue to learn about career opportunities in the government sector protecting wildlife like bats. Photo: Indiana Bat, USFWS, Creative Commons Public Domain License.

Are you a Wild Spartan? Join 4-H staff as we meet scientists from across Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Take a look into life working with fisheries and wildlife! Follow along as we climb through bogs, peer into bear dens, mist net songbirds, snorkel for fish, or perhaps even tag deer. Meet researchers, learn about their field work, and the education and career path they've followed to get there.

In this 4-H Wild Spartans episode, meet Michigan DNR biologist, John DePue, learn about his field work, and his education and career path as he shares his work "Protecting Michigan's Bats."

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Video Transcript

(music and crickets chirping)This program is created by Michigan 4H, Michigan State University Extension, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources We have 31 families and 43 youth that have registered for this series. And families are participating from all across the state. And eventually we might even have some joined from other states as well, and they're welcome to join too. We are glad to see all of you here. I'd like to introduce our moderators for this series on tonight's call. Well, I'm one. My name is Laura Quist, I am a 4H program coordinator with a focus on shooting sports and environmental and outdoor education. And I'm based in Wexford County. We also have Ann Kretschmann. She's a 4H staff member from Houghton and Keweenaw Counties and is representing the UP. Veronica Bolhuis is our 4-H staff person from Kalamazoo county. Seth Martin will be joining us later in the series and he is joining from McComb County and Dr. Alexa Warwick. She's a wildlife engagement specialist with MSU Extension and MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife based in East Lansing. I know some of you on today's call are new to 4H. And we're glad to have you here. And typically many people think a 4H is working with agricultural issues like plows and cows. But we're actually the largest statewide youth development organization in Michigan. So we focus on a variety of project areas that are interesting to youth statewide. In this new monthly series called 4H Wild Spartans, we'll explore wildlife careers and wildlife conservation. We will also meet scientists that are involved and explore their fieldwork. We'll follow along and climb through bogs, peer into bear dens, mist net sing birds snorkel for fish, and perhaps even tagged some deer. We will meet researchers, we'll learn about their fieldwork and the education and career path that they followed to get there. If you're interested, you can even join a wildlife themed 4H Club or help get one started in your own community. So, tonight's program last about 30 minutes. All participants are going to be muted and your cameras are off. If you type into the chat box, which is just at the bottom of your screen, the 4H staff on the call will see the message and we will respond to you. You have a question that you'd like to ask to our presenter. We ask that you use the Q and A feature. Q and A is another one of those boxes right down at the bottom of your screen, type your question into that. And after John's presentation will take time and answer all those questions. So save them up, write them down and send them in. Today's session is being recorded. But the only people that will be on the recording are the presenter and the moderators. Those are the only faces that will appear in the video. After we get the recording done will close caption it and make the recording available on the Wild Spartans webpage. So you can always go back there and view it. If you miss a month, don't worry, we'll make the recording and save it to share it. So after our program, be sure to watch, check out that webpage to look for other activities that are related and other events coming up. And now I'm going to turn it over to Dr. Alexa Warwick so she can tell us a little bit, give us a sneak peek about November's presentation right before she introduces tonight's guest researcher. Thanks Laura, and thanks so much everybody for joining tonight. As Laura mentioned, just as a prelude for next month, which this time it's only two weeks away from the next talk, we'll be talking about African wild dogs, so going a little further afield. But tonight we have one of my colleagues, John de Pew. He works as we've already said, for the Michigan Department of natural resources in the wildlife division. So he's had quite a varied experience as a wildlife biologist. Currently, he covers the western UP and is the state Bat Program Coordinator. He's worked for Michigan DNR for six years and prior to that was over in Maine doing fur bearer and small mammal biology, including working on bats there too. He's got degrees from University of Idaho and the University of Wyoming. And as I said, he's worked with a lot of different wildlife. So if you hear this list, you'll be pretty impressed. Ranging from caribou in Alaska, links and otters in Colorado, foxes in Chile, and even tigers in Russia. And now we're going to be talking about bats in Michigan. So one quick, as John gets his presentation up, I'm just going to start a quick poll to get you all excited for, for the talk tonight. So might be able to guess this one. And if you don't see the poll, no problem. This is just to keep everyone kind of moving along as we're getting. John, feel free to start getting your presentation up. So the question is, what animal is being celebrated this week across the globe? All right, just a few more seconds. Think most of you know the answer to this. And indeed, it is a International Bat Week. So says very timely to be talking about bats and are so excited to have John here. Sharing his, his experiences and his knowledge with us. So thanks again, John and take it away. Thanks Alexa and thanks everyone for having me. I'm excited to talk about bats that's interesting this time of year, of course a fairly, I wouldn't say I that I'm a popular guy, but having me come to talk to folks this time of year is, it's always pretty popular with bats, Of course. It is international Bat Week. And we have this association with Halloween and bats. And interestingly, you know, that might stem from bats migrating into hibernacula this time of year or bats hibernating south for the winter, which I'll get into the details. But up here where I sit in my basement in Hoden, these bats are in their hibernacula for the winter and they have been for couple of weeks. So alright, let's get started. And let me just make sure it's a little slower than I'm sorry. Okay. So that's their order "Chiroptera" which means hand wing. And you can see from this picture, they have they have wings. Obviously. I guess we're not live. So I can't quiz you guys on this, but I'll tell you. In Michigan, bats are the only flying mammal. Of course, flying squirrels do not fly, they glide. So, so bats are the only flying mammal here in Michigan. Some interesting point, things I'd like to point out on, on bats, of course, is their wing membrane. And that wing, wing membrane is very interesting. It can grow pretty quickly, so it can be damaged through flight or fighting or, you know, flying through the trees and forested areas that can, that can cause damage and or disease can cause damage to wing membrane grows back rather quickly if an animal is healthy. Okay? So what the bats eat? Globally, bats eat all kinds of things. Insects of course. Fruit, nectar, bats will even eat small birds, reptiles, rodents and fish. But here in Michigan, bats eat insects. All the bats that we have here in Michigan eat insects for the most part in North America, the bat species that we have in North America eat insects. In the south. There are some that feed on nectar and protein. But, for the most part, they are insect consumers here in, on North America and certainly in Michigan. So we all know of course, that bats are active at night and to be able to get around, they use echolocation. So that helps them find prey and helps them move through the darkness. But hopefully you know this if you don't already, bats are not blind. So the saying blind as a bat, it just doesn't make any sense to me. I don't get it because bats aren't blind. They can see. They can see just fine. But when there isn't a lights, then they can't see. So use echolocation. On the bottom of the screen, it's interesting. In this white graph, you can see these little feathery type things. And the reason I show that is we can identify bat species by their call sequence. So the frequency and the pattern that the bats make is unique to different bat species. So that's one technique that we can use the scientists and researchers to assess populations. And we have a partnership with the Detroit zoo where we're using citizen scientists to use ultrasonic bat recorders and drive around at night and try to pick up call sequences from bats. And that's been pretty interesting. So some common myths, you know, I don't know how bats and Halloween get together again, but, you know, bats are not flying into your hair. Bats do not lay eggs. Bats here in Michigan do not suck on your blood. I already mentioned bats are not blind and all bats, don't have rabies. If you'd have been fishing in the evening sometime you've seen bats maybe swooped down towards your head, but they're eating insects that are attracted to you. They're not trying to find your hair. Just a little bit of information on rabies. And that is that the presence of rabies in wild bat populations is less than 1%. So very few bats in the wild have rabies. Bats infected with rabies tend to die pretty quickly. Not to say they shouldn't take it seriously if you have a bat and your house or a bat bites you. You don't go with your bare hands and grab a bat if you see one because you don't want to get bit by a bat, doesn't mean it has rabies. But you just want to be cautious because rabies, of course, deadly for 99% of the people have ever been infected with it. So but yeah, it's something to be aware of. But based on the data, there's a low prevalence in the wild population. Are an interesting thing about bats is, is torpor is like true hibernation. And so bats go into the site so the wintertime in suppress their, their entire physiology. So really decrease their heart rates, the respiratory, their body temperature. And we'll talk about that. Why that isn't kind of how to do that in a few minutes here, a few slides, but bears, for example, are not going quite as deep into torpor as, as bats do. So why the heck should we even care about bats, right? I mean, I care about bats, I like bats, I work on bats. I think they're really cool, really cool animals of course. But let's just say you didn't really think much about bats. They are extremely important to our ecosystem. So bats, as you know, as I mentioned, eat a ton of insects depending on the species and we're talking metric tons of insects a night. There's a science publication a few years ago that suggested that bats provide basically $3 to $50, some billion dollars nationally in pest control services for agriculture. So basically that means these bats are eating insects that would otherwise ruin crops such as corn, soybeans, cotton, et cetera, et cetera. That works out to about specifically Michigan, about $74 per farmed acre per year. What we don't even have estimated is the impacts that bats have on forest health, those species, insects that cause outbreaks. I can kill trees. like gypsy moths, tent caterpillars and cut worms, et cetera. So, and the other thing, just anecdotally that's interesting, hasn't been quantified yet, but we've had a precipitous decline in bat populations over the past several years, due to diseases, which I'll talk about a few minutes. But now we're seeing cases of Triple E increase and a few other things. So so they are important. So I'm gonna briefly kind of cruise through the bat species so I can get to some, some cooler slides down the way. But we have two main groups here in Michigan. Cave or mine hibernating bat species and then what we call tree, tree bat species, long distance migrants. And bats that do not hibernate in Michigan tend to fly far south to Florida, Georgia, warmer places for the winter. And then the bats that do hibernate here in Michigan, they also migrate but shorter distances, up to 250 miles some of these bats will migrate. to a place where there is a hibernacula where there are conditions that they're looking for. I'll talk about this conditions here in a few minutes. So I'm just going to cruise through the bat species in Michigan. So hoary bats, This is the longest, aren't migrate. This is a larger bat. You can see the white tips on the on of the fir. These Hoary's are just a really cool bat. They're big and they're beautiful. Red bats. Another tree species, long distance migrants smaller than Hoary bats. Again, flying south in the winter. (Veronica)So we do have one question John. How long have bats been alive or were in existence? (John) Oh how long have they been like evolutionarily? Uh-huh. That's a good question that I just can't answer as far as the evolutionary history of bats. So we have, we have New World bats like New World monkeys, old-world bats. Interestingly, a lot of the older world bats or fruit eaters and nectar eaters. And the new world bats are an insect eater or so. And I guess I don't have a great answer. Millions of years, but they've been around they began around all my lifetime. (Veronica) Great thanks. (John) Yeah. Yeah. So so The Silver haired bat is also a really cool bat thats got. The tips of his furs, silver. The tri-color bat I can show. Oh, these are just really cool. They're pretty rare in Michigan where we have them. They're a native species. Populations are rather small. You can see like on their forearm it's kinda red and then they have this dark wing membrane and then they're kinda yellowish. Oh, I love seeing those things. You don't see them very often, especially with White Nose Syndrome, but we do see them. They're just, they're just really cool to see. Big brown bats. They are big and they're brown. Another cool species. common one, which hibernate here in Michigan. So this is not a long distance migrant. And then , of course, the most common bat species in North America, Little brown bats. It's smaller. And we have, we still have numbers are declining, but we still have populations Little Brown here in Michigan. Northern long-eared bat a federally threatened species. Pretty cool. They have really long ears, smaller bat, about the same size as a little brown. And the Evening Bat, kind of a southern Michigan bat. Smaller. Indiana bats. We have a few places that we recorded Indiana bats in southern Michigan. This is a federally endangered species. And OK. So we have, we have nine species of bats here in Michigan and, and bats in Michigan and across the world are, are seeing population declines as the number of wildlife species. Kind of some specific reasons that have been identified that bats are experiencing population declines in Michigan and North America. Climate change. There are some issues with pesticides, of course, habitat destruction. But it's very specific that they've been able to quantify when wind turbines as a big mortality cause for bats. And then of course we know the disease, White Nose Syndrome. So white nose syndrome, which I'm gonna talk about here in some detail, affects and impacts cave hibernating bats. But wind turbines kill a lot of the tree bat species. Long distance migrants. as they are moving from their summer and winter grounds, they interact these big wind projects and it can be detrimental. Unfortunately. So I'm going to talk a fair bit about the disease, White Nose Syndrome because it's been just a horrific to bat populations. That disease is caused by a fungus. The fungus is called Pseudogymnoascus. Destructans, caught me up. it's a mouthful, so I am going to refer to as PD from now on, you guys at home can practice saying that Pseudogymnoascus., Destructans. The disease causes, the fungus causes energy depletion of the bats. And you can see in this photo, this wing deterioration. And this is kind of mild. I've seen this disease basically eat away most of the wing membranes of the bats. So it can be really detrimental. What happens is bats go in to hibernation, right this time of year, they don't come out til April. So the last insects that they've been able to consume are around this time. And so the only energy and fats that they have stored for four to six months, depending on where they are hibernating. They have. So bats come out of torpor, bats that are not infected with pre-white nose syndrome come out of torpor about every three weeks. With white nose syndrome because they are irritated it's, it's it's bothering them the they arouse from torpor about every eight to 11 days. So much shorter torpor belt. So when they come out of torpor, it ramps up their whole system through the basically they, they arouse, they wake up and then fly around. So their body has to use a lot of energy to come back about torpor. So they are burning energy when they're awake and then they go back in, but it happens a lot more frequently. And then bats will run out of energy in sometimes in January and February. And it was first discovered this disease in New York in February. And some folks are walking around the woods and they found like a pile of bats laying on the snow dead. And couldn't figure out what it was. These bats had the white fungus growing on their nose. Hence the name White Nose fungus-syndrome. Okay, so there are no other animals that are known to be affected by, by the fungus is a cold loving, high humidity fungus. So it's not going to affect your dog or your pets or, or other critters and not even people. Okay, how about the impacts here at Michigan? So we first detected the disease in 2014. And since then, most of all our hibernacula have signs of infection on the bats. We stop sending samples into the labs to be tested because pretty much every, every site is affected at this point. We've seen about an 83% to 87% decline in the population when we compare sites that we surveyed now compared to pre-white nose, or pre-infection. So that is, that's pretty bad. The only, we have a couple of positive outlooks though. While one is, although I go to places that are sitting in the 95 to like 100% extinction of bats in sites. We're a little bit lower on our mortality rate. But we also have a number of locations that are colder, hibernacula, that tend to have higher survival. And I'm gonna talk about that here in a few minutes and why we think that is. And what that means for management and conservation. (Veronica)We have one more question, but I have one thing for you is there's somebody with you is typing by any chance? We are hearing clicking on our end. ( John) Okay. No, but it must be pushing against the desk. Let me move it. All right. What's the question? Okay. The question is, do you baby bats stay with their parents and if so, for how long? Good question. So, so bats are mammals. They, they give live birth and they do stay with their mother for about two months. So the so the young are born kind of at the end of May and by the end of July, they're able to fly on their own. So they'll live in these maternity colonies. And so there'll be a bunch of females together that have, have just given birth, to their young and then the mothers will fly out and consume insects and then come back to the young in the maternity colony. (Veronica)Okay, one more question. When a bat gets in your house. What's the easiest and safest way to get them back outside without hurting them? (John)So that's a good question. And there's a couple things you can do. What if it's a room that you can just shut the door on and like and leave it for the night. One of the best things to do is open the window, take off the screen, and close the door, right? So, so the bats not going to fly out of the room. If you open a window without the screen, the bat does not want to be in your house, it will find its way out the window over the night. If that's not possible. Of course, there's a lot of information on the web or you can if the bats on the drapes or something take a box and then take a piece of cardboard and slide it up and then take it outside and release it. You don't want to grab it. Even with leather gloves. You don't want to grab bats. Leave that for, for either nuisance control operators or for us to deal with that type of stuff. But don't yeah, I mean, typically if you open and let the bat fly out, don't chase around with like fishing nets and that kind of thing. That's just ridiculous, right? So okay. So the diseases spread from New York and it's as far west as what the state of Washington now. And part of the reason is it spread so quickly is you can see from this picture bats cluster in these tight clusters. So all these bats in this picture could be over-wintering in, in a site in, in New York. And then in the summer comes all those bats could. Dispersed to different. summer roosting colonies where there could be, you know, they're in contact with 50 to a 100 other bats, that have hibernated someplace else. The spores from this fungus are extremely virulent, so they last. They're not growing on the bats in the summer because the bats are seeking out hot, dry places. But there's little spores and the bats are carrying it on there fur or on their skin and then carrying it to the bats, interacting with each other. And take it back to sites that, that hasn't seen it before, that there was no disease in, and then it gets into those environments and then the fungus grows. So that's how it's spread so quickly. So here in Michigan. 99% of our hibernacula are abandoned mines. And the reason, I'll showing you here this next picture, mostly in the UP. So you can see here in the Western Upper Peninsula. And there's a long history of mining. There's literally hundreds, thousands of mines, abandoned mines on the landscape. And and those sites make great hibernacula for bats. So why to bats choose those? and as I said, I can't give you questions. But a bats chooses abandoned mines or caves because they're relatively cool. They average is between 38 and 45 degrees Farenheit with high humidity. So lot of these have water in the bottom or water dripping down, really high humidity. And so they have a stable temperature and it's fairly cold. So it's cold enough where the bat doesn't is kind of for its body, is the same temperature, Well, not exactly the same, but pretty close to the similar as the ambient temperature and suppresses their growth again or their physiology. So the body's not functioning quickly and using a fat energy stores. So let us want to choose those locations. It turns out unfortunately, so those are the same kind of environment and become viral conditions at the fungus likes to grow in. And so these are right here are two. These are pictures of two sites that we survey that hold bats and you can see how interesting it can be to get into them. I'm going to show you a few, few other pictures of life kind of underground and some of our sites here. So a number of art abandoned mines or hibernacula that we survey, require rope work, they are vertical. And you can see inside these sites, they're, they're very interesting, they're pretty cool. These, both these sites we repel down into and then survey. Again in some of these, you know, again, these are all abandoned mines. There's there's we also find abandoned mine cart. And then of course were done in there to see the bats. And this is some pictures of a few bats and down in the mines. So what's the Michigan DNR doing to combat white nose syndrome? So we have had a statewide Bat Monitoring Program for over 20 years. We continue to monitor the disease. We continued to survey bat populations. I mentioned that we are doing some acoustic surveys to look at bat populations in southern Michigan in the summer. We protect critical habitat. So you can see in this picture that gate. A bat friendly gate with horizontal bars. So if we find really important sites for bats, we find funding to, to put gates in front of them so that the humans can't go in. So these are interesting places for people to go and investigate. But they can disturb and arouse bats, wake them up. And bat's that are infected with White Nose Syndrome don't need anymore disturbances or arousing them out of torpor. Well we're going to count them, we talk in library voices, we're in and out pretty quickly, as fast as we can and try to be as un-impactful as possible. A couple other things, we participate with different universities on white nose treatment trials. We have gone in, in the summer and use chlorine dioxide gas when the bats aren't there and basically kill everything in there to try to decrease the loads of the fungus. Nonetheless, some decent success. We continue to outreach and education programs. I give talks. We have in the past held a bat festival with corona viruses here, of course we can't, couldn't do that, but when we're able to get back in business, we have look for that in the future sometime in October, where we celebrate bats and have a bunch of speakers and all kinds of cool activities. We're in the process of writing a habitat conservation plan, with US Fish and Wildlife Service. And then I'm going to talk about the mine manipulation. One of the things that we're doing that we've learned through research. Critical Conservation Strategy here. So I'm just gonna again show you some of the cool places. But I mean, I like being above the ground too, but it's a really interesting and cool world. Again, this is another site that is vertical, so we're repelled on, on the rope and we count the bats. And this picture of bass that you can see here is somewhere between a hundred and fifty and two hundred bat. So it's a pretty, pretty cool site. Okay. So there's not a cure that we know of yet. So we continue to do surveillance with our partners, Eastern Michigan University and Steve Smith. These guys have been doing surveys for, like I said, over 20 years. And from some of the data that they've gathered and we've gathered and working with other researchers, we found that again, I mentioned the colder cyclase. So here in Michigan, because most, most of our sites are abandoned mines, there's shafts and air holes and that creates chimney affect, some airflow and the sites can be colder than with higher survival rates in that cold, those colder sites. It gave us an idea of if we can implement that, that as a conservation strategy to decrease the impacts White Nose Syndrome on the bat population, especially in sites that are warm. So those colder temperature suppress the growth of the fungus that causes this disease. So here's a site we have a Michigan that is warm. This averages about 45 degrees Fahrenheit. As you know, it's cold here in Michigan in the winter we have free cold air. So I had the idea of taking a fan and sucking cold air and the wintertime from the outside and ran this this duct 400 feet into this site to pump cold-air in and see if we can get the temperature to drop. I included some mine ventilation engineers happened to be a class being taught on campus. So I included that class and they came up some calculations and algorithms and determine can probably do it the next logistical trip. It's how do you do this in a site where there's no power? So you can see we're using solar panels to charge the batteries that run the fan. And we're still kind of working out the kinks with that because in the wintertime, as you can see in the picture, there's clouds. It is cloudy here for days, weeks, months on end, and we're just not getting enough power, but we're working on addressing that this fall here in the next couple of weeks to see if we can get some other power source out there to get the fan sucking cold air in. And hopefully we'll be able to accomplish that. And with that, increase the survival of bats in sites that are warm. And if that, if it works here and we can figure this out, we'll be able to use this at other sites in Michigan and across North America. So we're pretty excited about this. But one of the few states that's doing something like this in, in the country. So we're very fortunate that we have these mines that were able to work in. So we'll see where it goes. So the things we're going to continue to do, we continue to identify sites that are key and find funding to gate them. To keep human disturbance out. We've done a number of sites already. Here's an example. This is in the Porkies right off the main highway and the Porkies (Porcupine) State Park used to have 18 thousand bats down to about 200 bats now. So pretty impactful. The diseases, pretty impact on that population. This is one of the sites are trying to cool down. While we continue to do outreach because I think it's important to talk to folks like you and anyone who wasn't going to talk about bats, of course, how important they are. And and just to kind of support some of the work that we're doing, we will be kicking up winter surveys here in the next couple of weeks on through March to help us determine, find new locations, see how the bat populations are doing . If they are stabilizing and continue to find further information on these micro climates. And so we're pretty, we're pretty excited about that. And then then of course we're going to continue with our summer Citizen Science Program collecting acoustic data. All right. With that, that was a lot of information in a short amount of time. And I'll take any questions. Thanks for your time tonight. And also knows a lot, and I talk fast. But if you have any questions, I'm happy to try and answer a couple in here. (question) So in general time frame to bats normally breed? Now, fall is called fall swarming. Well, in general now, right? So maybe the middle to the end of September through the middle of October, we're still in the middle of October? And they will meet up in front of hibernacula. And have what's called a swarming event and that's when they when they mate is in the fall. (question) So why do bats now I have all of their blood rush to their heads when they sleep? That's good. That's a good question. It's just their physiology. They ever able to continue to slowly move, very slowly move blood through. But when they are, well they're sleeping upside down in the summer to more physiologically active. And they're they're just designed to have their blood flow I guess more with more powerful pumps in their heart. And so it's not all pooling in their head. (question) Why do bats sleep during the day and fly at night? That's a pretty good question. So it's a well, there's a couple of reasons. They will fly during the day. But it's a, it's a niche that they're filling that birds of prey can be big predators of bats. So to avoid predators, they, they have used the evolutionary strategy of hunting at night insects. So there's insects out at night. They have prey and they're avoiding predators by, by flying and consuming and doing most of the activity at night. Now of course, owls are active at night and owls are predators of bats and there are there owls that we'll learn where bats roost in the summertime and as they're emerging, predate on them. (question) So we have somebody who lives in a fairly urban area. Can you talk a little bit about bat houses and they really help bats? Yeah, sure. Well, interestingly, you probably do know bats in your urban area. Well, I should preface that with pre white nose syndrome. So we basically, because due to the white nose central disease, have lost 80 to 90% of that population in Michigan and North America. But through the citizen science project doing the acoustic work in the summers. Here we intentionally have folks running routes through cities and picking up call signals of bats. So they're using green belt ways. They're using golf courses, ponds, all kinds of stuff that feed on where there are insects bat houses can, can be effective. Needs to be placed correctly, positioned correctly. So they need a lot of sun, south facing, 15 to 20 feet in the air. But they can be effective. the thing that can be discouraging right now, of course, like I said, we've lost 90% of our bat populations. So, you know, we were excited to put a bat house up and it could take years and years and years for bats to fine it and then actually populated because we're missing a huge chunk of a bat population that uses bat houses. So little brown bats are the most common species to use human structures including bat houses. Big Browns use them to some degree. So it can be a little frustrating but they can be beneficial. Just one question from me. I have heard that guano or bad poop is really good for fertilizer, but I have also heard it's very dangerous for humans. And so how would, if you were going to use it, is there a safe way to do that? And how do you stay safe in the caves when there's bat poop there? Good question. Well, of the bat cave questions fairly easy and that bats do defecate in the, in the in the winter while they're happening because they're the physiological suppressed There's, there's not a lot of feces in these caves from bats like hardly anything. So I mean, you can buy commercial guano. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find big piles of guano to like, to make it like like, you know, it doesn't stack up here in Michigan like horse or cow would. Even an attics where there have been larger maternity roosting colonies. Don't have big build-ups of feces, because they're just not they're not pooping that much in their, their roosting sites. And they are there for relatively short time for just a couple of months, where I can get dangerous is in wetter, hotter climates, where the bats are hanging out in the roosting site for longer durations. And the piles then build up and then you have bacterias that are growing in those guano piles. But here in Michigan, you just don't typically see that That's more like, not even really in Central United States, more in Central and South America. Do you see things like that. (question)John, can you describe your favorite day at work to us? Ohman! That's tough. That's tough. Well, I'll tell you. There are some days in the context of Bats anyway. I'm you you're in the winter and you get to either hiking or snow shoe in. to a site a mile or two. I do like the rope work, so you repell to a site. And if if it's a little bit cooler. like these days, if you if you get to count a decent bat population that's, that's, you know, 25 to 40% of pre White Nose populations. You're feeling pretty good about what you're seeing there. You know, it's always, if it's a few bats are always glad and appreciative to see bats alive. So yeah, it's, it's pretty cool getting out in the woods and underground and seen bats and seeing tracks along the way and doing that sort of thing. But I have a lot of great days in the field. I can talk for hours on some of my favorite days! (question)And John, could you say more about how you got into wildlife biology or what what led you to that as a career path? That's that's a good question. I grew up in northern Wisconsin and in the burbs of western suburbs of Chicago and northern Wisconsin. We had we lived in a lake and river and I was always running around fishing, canoeing and that kind of thing. So yeah, interesting early on, probably some similar programs like this when my best friends was was really into reptiles and amphibians. And I was into mammals. And we go to nature centers volunteer at nature centers. He is now a professor at the University of Iowa, studies reptiles, amphibians, and I were mammals and I think just the ability to be outside and do some of the fun stuff I like to do outside. And in working with critters has led me to, you know, years and years of working on animals and wildlife and trying to improve their habitats and hopefully, hopefully making some impactful that these critters will be around not just bats, but all the critters in that habitats that we have for wildlife that people have an appreciation for them. (question)Yeah, that's awesome. Any advice for youth that might be on the call would be interested in that kind of career? Yeah. I say Get outside and participate. See what, see what you like. Do you do you like birds? do you like fish? Do you like looking for frogs and toads? Do you want to work with mammals? And then spend time outside like, I think even, you know, if you can volunteer at nature centers, you can volunteer with the different land trusts arounds. And even just spending time outside. You start learning some skills and an appreciation for and making observations of things. Even if you're living in cities. There's, there's, I mean there's a, there's a whole field of, of wildlife in cities. and how different species are interacting. So get out and try to get as much experience as you can through either through volunteering and just getting outside and an experience outside at all times of the year. So winter, summer, spring, fall, you know, check it all out and we can be so dang cool. If you have an opportunity, you know, where it snows, You think it's cold and you don't like it, it's one of my favorite times, go out. a day after it snows and you can see all kinds of tracks in the snow its typically the woods are quiet. And you can just see all kinds of tracks. Even if you don't, if you feel like you're not living in a, in a, in a place that's wild, you'd be surprised. Squirrel tracks and the bird tracks that you'll see and you'll, you may even see Coyote tracks and Fox tracks and all kinds of cool stuff. It's harder to pick up on when there's no snow. So get out there and have fun. (question)And I actually had a question for the group that they're participating to say what their favorite group of animals was. So that was perfect that you even pose that question as you were discussing that. Figure out what you like! And we would love to hear what, what other participants are interested in because we are working on filling the leader webinar series and would love to know what, what you're interested in hearing about. So I'll keep that pole open and if there are any other questions, I don't know if we have any new ones that have come up, but thank you so much, John, for that presentation and for answering questions and being with us tonight. Absolutely. Thanks for having me. Happy Holiday and the bats aren't going to go to for the most part, they are tucked into the relatively cool, cold, moist environments for the winter. So and don't forget, there are 4-H clubs in every county across the state. You can start a club and explore a wildlife like this together with your friends. We hope you'll look into that and doing that too. ( Crickets chirping)