Phenological and demographic change in a high-elevation adapted bat species in response to an introduced fungal disease and climate change

College of Natural Sciences





Primary Topic:

Natural Resources and Sustainability

Other Topics:

No additional topic areas, only my selection from previous question

Lead Mentor:  

Tanya Dewey

Assistant Professor

Internship Overview:

High elevation hibernators, such as vespertilionid bats, are impacted disproportionately by warmer, drier, and more unpredictable conditions associated with climate change. The specific impacts of changes to active season length, prey abundance, extreme weather events, or megafires, are not well-studied in non-charismatic species, such as bats and other small mammals. In addition, populations of species in the genus Myotis, along with other vespertilionids, are being impacted by the introduced fungal disease, white-nose syndrome (WNS). These stressors contribute to changes in over-winter survival, body condition, and reproductive rates. In vespertilionid bats, who travel locally to hibernacula that may be at lower elevations, the timing of critical life history events may be impacted, such as arrival and departure from summer foraging and breeding grounds and the timing of births and volancy.

Preference given to applicants that are fully vaccinated against rabies.

Goals, Scope and Objectives:

We will leverage four years of existing data on species diversity, occupancy, phenology, and demography of vespertilionid bats at CSU’s Mountain Campus to examine the impacts of climate change and white-nose syndrome on these populations. We will do this by capturing bats along an elevational gradient from the Poudre River to the Mountain Campus and measuring body condition, demographic parameters (including pregnancy, lactation, and the presence of newly volant young), and species activity patterns (proportions detected at different places and times). Captured bats will be microchipped in order to assess recapture rates and, therefore, estimate population sizes. Acoustic monitoring will be used to establish activity patterns of different species throughout the warm season and DNA samples and swabs will be collected to evaluate population genetic parameters and detect the presence of WNS. These data will be especially important for evaluating the impact of climate change and WNS on the high-elevation adapted species, M. volans, which is considered sensitive at the federal level because the impact of WNS on this species has not yet been established.

With which stakeholder group(s) will the intern work?

Students will report to state agencies (Colorado Parks and Wildlife), Colorado Natural Heritage Program, and USFS Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest (representing a landowner stakeholder in Poudre Canyon), and the USGS National Bat Monitoring Program (NABat).

What student learning outcomes do you anticipate and what are the opportunities for professional development?

This internship will take place largely at CSUʻs Mountain Campus (8 weeks), with some activities completed on campus (2 weeks). The intern will engage with CSU faculty and researchers at Mountain Campus, student volunteers, and both extension service and Colorado Natural Heritage Program staff. The intern will gain field expertise in safe bat capture and handling protocols, including taking measurements and biological sample collection. The intern will be responsible for analyzing both demographic and acoustic data and interacting with relevant agency representatives to report on findings. The student will interact with collaborators at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who assist with generating DNA sequence data. The intern will also be invited to collaborate on manuscript writing for academic publication and present their work at a local or national conference.
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