Detectors will be available to follow bats in flight

Participants will learn how bats utilize echolocation during a special program this week at Sodalis Nature Preserve in Hannibal.

Representatives from Titley Electronics (TE), maker of the Anabat acoustic bat detector, will give a presentation working in conjunction with the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department, on bat echolocation 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, in Sodalis.

"We will talk about what [bats] are actually doing and how it helps them to be masters of the dark,” Kim Livengood of TE said. "At dusk, we will be watching the bat-out flight and using acoustic detectors to see that echolocation pulses or sequences of pulses in real time on screens on hand-held detectors and also on a larger screen while we discuss what we are seeing."

Livengood, who will be joined by Chris Corben of TE, said the program will be a learning experience for the public. "They will have the opportunity to ask questions about bats, their ecology, and echolocation," Livengood said.

Livengood, a bat researcher for 35 years, is fascinated at how technology can be used to gain a "view into the world of bats."

"I am particularly interested in using the subtle differences in their echolocation to identify them by species," Livengood said.

Acoustic bat detectors can provide a significant amount of information.

"Bats vary their echolocations as they change their distance to objects," Livengood said. "Each of these tiny changes is reflected in the shape and frequency of their echolocation pulses. These changes provide the bat with more information about their environment. How they change these pulses provides us with information about their biology and their species."

The range at which an acoustic bat detector is effective can vary. Liven good said bats can produce a wide range of frequencies and intensities.

“Some bats fly high in the air and produce low-frequency pulses that can be heard at 100 meters, while those who are gleaning bats, living close to the vegetation, might only be heard from 5-10 meters," she said.

This will not be Livengood's first trip to Sodalis. She said the preserve is an incredible resource for bats, researchers and area residents.

"It is a rare opportunity for the public to be able to safely get close to a bat roost while not endangering the bats,” Livengood said. “For the bats and the bat researchers, this is a really huge congregation of bats when their numbers are declining across the country from the fungus called White Nose Syndrome."

Acoustic bat detectors have proven "very successful" at identifying bats during past visits to Sodalis, Livengood said. She sees no reason why they wouldn't be Wednesday night. Participants may detect the endangered Indiana Bat, Eastern Red, Big Brown, Gray bats, Tricolored, Northern Long-eared, Little Brown, and Hoary bats.

Wednesday's program will not be the only teaching opportunity that Livengood and Corben will have at Sodalis.

After the event, a group of researchers representing government agencies, university students and environmental consultants will arrive from all over the eastern half of the U.S.

"For the next week, these researchers will explore echolocation, how best to use the tools available for recording flying bats, and how to identify the data recorded," Livengood said.