Supervisors: Dr. Brigham
Office: LB 109
Research topic: Winter ecology of prairie bats.
Resource selection and behaviour of temperate-zone animals are well studied during the summer months, but we have relatively scant knowledge about their winter ecology. Given that some species can spend up to six months hibernating, this represents a considerable gap in most species annual cycle. Scarcity of food and water during winter may place increased importance on access to these resources. In addition, all hibernators arouse, for reasons poorly understood. Access to mates, food, and water, and maintenance of muscle tissue have been implicated as reasons for these arousals. How these factors affect hibernation is important because increased frequency in arousals likely reduces over-winter survival.
The objective of my research is to increase our understanding of habitat selection and behaviour in bats over-wintering in prairie environments. Specifically, I investigate: physical and microclimate characteristics of winter roosts (i.e., hibernacula) and surrounding landscape; social behaviour, including clustering and roost switching; thermoregulatory patterns; and causes for mid-winter flight in free-ranging big brown and little brown bats. Much of what we know about hibernating bats comes from research on cavern-dwelling species. Available hibernacula in the prairies (e.g., rock crevices) are likely smaller, drier, and less thermally-stable. My study provides comparative hibernation biology data for a group relatively understudied compared to rodents, and reduces the paucity of knowledge about winter bat-ecology in the prairies.