Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Blog-- Nick Goforth

My graduate students have all been hard at work on their thesis projects this summer.  To highlight their work, I have asked them to participate as guest bloggers and tell us a little bit about their work.  Today's guest blogger is Nick Goforth.  Nick is working on an M.S. in Natural Resources Management at Texas Tech University. His project examines bat activity in wildfire and prescribed fire sites in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico.  Below, he shares some of his recent field experiences.  You can follow his blog, GoForth and Study Bats, too.

(C) Nick Goforth 2013

With the assistance of Joseph Powell, I am currently researching the effects of wildfires and prescribed burns on forest-dwelling bats.  I am conducting my research in the Santa Fe National Forest and on the Valles Caldera National Preserve in the Southwest Jemez Mountains of New Mexico.

SM2Bat+ and stand assembled at field sites (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)
Nick Goforth assembling SM2Bat+ (Copyright Robin Verble-Pearson 2013)

In order to study the effects of fires on forest-dwelling bats, I am using six Wildlife Acoustic SM2Bat+ ultrasonic recorders to record bat calls and therefore determine bat activity levels.  All six recorders are set out randomly at different survey sites each night to record the echolocation calls of passing bats from sunset to sunrise.  

The prescribed burn portion of my research is being conducted within the boundary of the Paliza Prescribed Burn Treatment area in the Santa Fe National Forest which is scheduled to be burned in Fall 2013.  I have established 3 pre-burn control sites and 3 pre-burn burned sites in ponderosa pine forests.  I began surveying my study sites this summer and will survey them again in Summer 2014 in order to obtain pre- and post-burn bat activity levels.  I am also using black light traps to assess insect abundance and diversity to compare to bat activity levels.

Blacklight trap (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

The wildfire portion of my research is being conducted on the Valles Caldera National Preserve and includes two wildfires.  The first wildfire is the Las Conchas Wildfire of 2011 that burned over 156,000 acres.  The second wildfire (Thompson Ridge Fire) which started on the day that I arrived to my study area in the summer of 2013 burned almost 24,000 acres.  I have established twelve study sites in mixed conifer forests; four primarily, moderate burn severity study sites in both wildfire perimeters and four study sites in unburned forests. 

Thompson Ridge Wildfire in progress (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

In order to determine which species of bats that my recorders have recorded, I am creating a call reference library.  A call reference library is a collection of recorded calls in which the calls were recorded from known bat species.  This allows me to compare known calls from the library to unknown calls from the ultrasonic recorders and to therefore determine the species that was recorded.  In order to create this library, we set up mist-net to capture and determine the species of the bat captured then recorded their echolocation calls.

Nick Goforth and Joseph Powell recording bat calls

Joseph Powell assembling a mist net (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Here are a few pictures of the bats that we have caught so far!

 While we are here studying bats, we have also seen several other amazing animals.

Elk at Valles Caldera National Preserve (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Elk Herd at Valles Caldera National Preserve (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Coyote at Valles Caldera National Preserve (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Unknown mammal (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Horned Lizard (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Horned Lizard (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Snake (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Saturniid moth (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Moth (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Scarab Beetle (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

Bat Cloud! (Copyright Nick Goforth 2013)

In conclusion, I would like to thank Dr. Robin Verble-Pearson for giving me the opportunity to work on this project and in the southwest Jemez Mountains!  It has been a great joy being able to work with bats in this beautiful part of the country!

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