Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Joys and Challenges of Fieldwork

The following is a guest blog by Nick Goforth.  Nick is an MS student in the Verble Fire Ecology Lab.  You can also read more about his work on his blog, here.

This past summer I was able to spend 5 months in beautiful New Mexico conducting research at the Valles Caldera National Preserve on the effects of wildfires on bats.  This experience was one of my most exciting and amazing adventures, but did not come without its challenges and obstacles.  From the Thompson Ridge wildfire starting within a few hours of my arrival, prompting a redesign of my study and a temporary loss of access to study sites,


to impassable roads caused by washouts and mud/rock slides as a result of the fire scarred landscape and ‘monsoon’ season, difficult daily hikes to survey sites, plenty of flat tires, and an eye injury while conducting vegetation surveys made for an eventful field season.

These hurdles failed, however, in comparison to the time I got to spend and the sights I got to see in this beautiful area, the amazing people I met, and the wildlife I saw and interacted with.

Crawfish boil © Aviv Karasov-Olson 2013




In terms of data collection, this field season was very successful.  Over approximately 75 nights, roughly 29,932 files containing bat calls were recorded.  Therefore, a large portion of my life over the next semester will be dedicated to identifying these recordings to down to species or phonic group, if possible.  Below is a graph illustrating the number of recorded files containing bat calls that were recorded per night during 2013.  Once the recordings are identified down to species or phonic group statistical analyses will be performed to determine if significant differences exist between treatments.

LC = Las Conchas wildfire, TR = Thompson Ridge wildfire, UC = unchanged © Nick Goforth 2014
For next field season, I plan to return to the Valles Caldera to continue collecting bat acoustic data, re-conduct vegetation surveys, and to mist net bats to add calls to my call reference library to assist me in identifying the bat species recorded.  Again, I would like to thank Dr. Robin Verble-Pearson for this opportunity and Joseph Powell and Amanda Winters for their assistance in the field.  I hope that they will be able to join me again in the field next season.  


I was also fortunate enough to be able to travel to San Jose, Costa Rica in August to attend the 2013 joint meeting of the International Bat Research Conference (IBRC) and the North American Symposium on Bat Research (NASBR).  This conference was the largest bat conference to date with approximately 650 attendees from 50 different countries.  While at this conference I was able to enjoy several presentations on bat research being conducted around the globe, meet many bat scientists from around the world, and go on a rainforest tour at Tirimbina Biological Reserve, where I was able to see some amazing flora and fauna, including two tent-roosting bat species.

Several people from Texas Tech University in attendance at IBRC/NASBR © http://kingstonlab.org






I look forward to the North American Symposium on Bat Research (NASBR) next year in Albany, NY.


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