Letters from a Young Bat Scientist-No. 6

 

Alexis Valentine trapping bats with a harp trap or the Tuttle trap, invented by Merlin
Alexis Valentine trapping bats with a harp trap or the Tuttle trap, invented by Merlin

January 5, 2015

Hi Mr. & Mrs. Tuttle,

I hope you had a great Christmas and New Year. I have to go back to school tomorrow.

I’ve always thought bats were neat. Each year my school has a science fair. I wanted to try something creative and unique for my project. When I was in 3rd grade I was given the opportunity to go out and see how bats were netted and tagged. Mr. Bill Stiver wildlife biologist at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park here where I live got me in touch with Dr. Joy O’Keefe from the University of Indiana. She had a grant to net bats in the park.

After my first trip I fell in love with bats. For my first three years (3rd–5th grades) studying bats, I went out with Dr. Joy each summer and helped net and tag bats checking for White-nose syndrome. When I was ready to go out the summer of my 6th grade years, I found out that Dr. Joy was not netting near here. That’s when Mr. Stiver introduced me to Riley Bernard, Ph.D. student at the University of TN in Knoxville. My first year out with Riley she let me help her net and tag bats in Knoxville at Ijams Nature Center. I have worked with Riley for the past two summers and she continues to mentor me. Riley has taken me under her “bat wing” and really helped me with everything. I have studied bats for five years now and am currently in 7th grade and can’t wait to learn more.

My Goals:

  • I would like to learn how to get a grant to get my own acoustic bat detectors, Anabat detector, and bat software so that I can conduct my research all year.
  • I would like to invent a serum or spray to kill WNS but not kill the other biotic fungi and elements in the cave.
  • I would like to write my own book on bat conservation based on a kid’s perspective to teach other kids how they can help bats. “Save our Bats–the Adventures of Bat Girl”
  • Continue my Park permit to study more bats in the National Park where I live.
  • Net bats with Dr. Tuttle

My current science fair project:

Project title: “Bat Chat–using echolocation to determine WNS effects”

Now that I’m getting older, Riley let me borrow one of her acoustic Song Meter SM2+ detectors. This is the first year doing my own research and going out by myself. I got my first permit with the Park for the Twin Creeks location. I traveled 16 times to check on my detector (my mom drove me). My project started on July 9, 2014 and ended on October 8th, 2014. Riley used my bat data and inputted into her SonoBat computer software program. The bat chats were analyzed to see what species of bats were visiting my research area. Unfortunately my original hypothesis was correct. There was a huge decline in the cave dwelling bats. I linked this to WNS.

So far I have won 1st place at my school science fair (December 2014). I will compete at the science fair in February and again at the regional science & engineering fair in March. Wish me “bat” luck!

Public Speaking:

Every year since I was in 3rd grade I have given a speech at the local Rotary Club on my bat project. I like speaking about bats and most people know hardly anything about them. In March I will give my 5th speech about bats. This year I volunteered at Boo at the Zoo and helped at the bat tent withRiley. I helped to educate others about the importance of bats and the horrible outcomes of WNS.

I hope to someday get invited to speak as a young scientist at the ATBI yearly science get together or just get invited to put up my board in the hallway for others to look at.

Talk to you soon!

Love,

Alexis

 

 

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