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    Research Projects

    Continental Bat Acoustic Monitoring (CBAM) and the Albuquerque Rio Grande Nature Center

    Using data from a long-term bat acoustic monitoring station located in the Bosque of the Rio Grande (Rio Grande Nature Center Albuquerque, New Mexico - ) we were able to compare activity of bats on a seasonal and nightly scale.   In this comparative study we focused on activity patterns of three species: Euderma maculatum, Antrozous pallidus, and Lasiurus cinereus.  Data from this station are compared to reports of occurrence in the primary literature and as documented with museum voucher specimens.  Since all North American vespertilionid bats echolocate to some degree, monitoring bat calls is an efficient way to detect their presence.  It is also possible to identify these calls to species by examining call sequences.  In this paper, we investigate temporal variation (e.g., seasonal and nightly) of bats at the monitoring site.  By comparing patterns that we observe with those in other studies, we report on trends and contrasting observations based on total calls per night (abundance) and changes (displacement) in species detected.  (see Poster) 

    Conservation Genetics of Townsend’s big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) in Western US

    The population ecology and conservation of Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) provides a model system for conservation concerns and emphasizing the need of data-driven conservation models. This sort of project also facilitates the development of working relationships between researchers and individuals in various resource management agencies.  These stakeholders together maintain input in management decisions and with data-driven discussions surrounding research, provide data that will make for success of conservation practices. 

    With Dr. Rick Sherwin, this project focuses on sites in north-central Nevada that are heavily impacted by mine-closure activities.  Mine closures pose a serious threat to C. townsendii, which is believed to be dependent upon these resources. Management of this species is based entirely on anecdotal or non peer-reviewed information.  This project is the first providing data driven management recommendations for this species.  Our findings have implications on the conservation of this species throughout the United States.  C. townsendii is considered to be "at risk" throughout its range primarily due to roost loss.  The partnering of mining industry, state agencies responsible for mine reclamation, and wildlife managers best ensures practical application of our findings to the conservation of this species.  Success will be measured by the development and implementation of data-driven protocols for C. townsendii.  Trying to understand the nature and role that humans play in the health of ecosystems is a very complex endeavor.  The 1st year of this study succeeded in understanding the impacts of abandoned mine reclamation on the roost-use patterns of Townsend's big-eared bat. We were able to establish a baseline of where bats occurred at the study site seasonally, conducted monitoring of displaced bats, genetic data was collected, mapping of localities was accomplished, and initial forging of contacts and relationships with industry and management partners occurred.  In the 2nd year we were successful in determining that 2 distinct genetic haplotypes existed at the study site, that these 2 haplotypes mixed in winter hibernacula, and that other genetic signals (other bats) were detected at the study site hibernacula in winter that was not present in summer.  This indicated to us that we needed to expand the study site into the landscape to include a larger spatio-temporal scale. 

    In this final year we will address the following goals. These are to: 1) Monitor the impacts of roost-loss on population dynamics (colony compositions, competitive exclusion, colony cohesion) of C. townsendii, 2) Monitor landscape-level changes in movement patterns at a larger spatial scale to include parts of southern Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.  This will take lessons learned locally and apply them regionally to apply to impacts of bat colony displacement.  3) Investigate impacts upon the molecular landscape by resolving the molecular ecology of C. townsendii (genetic information has proven to be an excellent gauge of population health and will provide a platform from which long term impacts of these activities can be gauged) in collaboration with other workers in C. townsendii genetics.  4) Elucidate spatio-temporal landscape requirements of C. townsendii relative to the position of the study site in the epicenter of the western distribution of this species.  Therefore our last goal (5) is to organize, coordinate, and chair a large meeting of scientists, industry, management agencies, and academic institutions to conduct a comprehensive evaluation of current management protocols for conserving populations of C. townsendii (colony exclusions, bat gates, accepted survey protocols, etc).  The outcome of this meeting will be a multi-authored, peer-reviewed, edited publication.

    URM: Undergraduate Nurturing Opportunities in Research in the Southwestern US

    The overall goal of this proposed 5-year Undergraduate Nurturing Opportunities (UNO) program is to recruit and prepare 24 undergraduate students, with 6 students in each of 4 cohorts (12 per year).  UNO students will train using the resources of the Sevilleta Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, the Museum of Southwestern Biology (MSB), and by exchange with other related mentoring programs.  UNO will provide: (a) instruction in principles in research ethics, ecological and evolutionary research techniques, and environmental biology career opportunities, (b) faculty and graduate student mentoring assistance with undergraduate research projects, (c) experience in professional presentations and co-authoring peer-reviewed research papers, and (d) active mentoring aimed towards successful completion in studies for a biology bachelor’s degree and enrollment in graduate school. UNM is a “minority majority” university rich in cultural diversity (Hispanic, Native American, and Anglo) going back 6 generations.  Previous training grants associated with the PIs and senior personnel were highly successful at attracting and training members of these groups, and also served as a source of motivated students for other institutions that seek greater diversity in their graduate programs. 

    Other Research or Collaborations

    Guidelines for the Use of Wild Mammals in Research, American Society of Mammalogists
    General guidelines for use of wild mammal species are updated and expanded to include numerous resources.  Among these resources are more details on marking, housing, trapping, and collecting mammals.  Supplemental materials and updates associated with this document are maintained on the American Society of Mammalogists website (  Supplementary materials include a list of active links regarding ethical animal use and regulation.  These guidelines are meant to provide guidance on current attitudes and regulation involving mammals used in research.  Both Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees and investigators must review and provide the final approval of how animals are used in any particular institution.  Those discussions are essential and will hopefully feedback to improve future iterations or updates of this document.  (written with Robert Sikes and the Animal Care Committee of the American Society of Mammalogists)

    Of Bat Rabies Testing and Infection in New Mexico

    Worldwide, human deaths from rabies range from 35,000 to 50,000 per year and are due mostly to dog bites. Bats, however, are commonly associated as carriers of rabies.  Since 1951 in the US, humans have contracted rabies from bats only about 40 times although rabies has been detected in 38 of the 52 known North American bat species.  Recent publications have shown that often rabies in bats is limited to many fewer species than this; for instance only 1 of 11 species of bat in Pennsylvania is the most common carrier of this virus.  By analyzing data for New Mexico from the New Mexico Department of Health and the CDC we show that over the past decade the relative risk of contracting rabies from various bat species and risk to humans of contracting rabies from a bat in New Mexico is relatively small.  We compared patterns of rabies infection between New Mexico and United States, between years, as well as between bats and other carriers such as dogs and cats. We found that some bat species have significantly higher average occurrence of rabies than other mammalian species tested. Other species, such as dogs, are tested at a much higher rate and have a successful vaccination program in effect.  Fearing bats because they are, as a group, perceived as likely sources of rabies infection may be misleading. Agencies must properly identify and voucher all material tested and apply management plans built around the ecology of each species.

    Reintroduction of Gunnison’s Prairie Dogs: 10 years later

    In 1997, a study was conducted to reintroduce Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) onto the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro County, New Mexico (Journal of Mammalogy, 80:1311-1324).  This study addressed the initial success of the introduction, and the effects of prairie dog reintroduction on local small mammal and plant communities on the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR), New Mexico.  In spring 1997, 60 prairie dogs (36.8 kg live mass) were introduced onto a former prairie dog colony in a desert grassland site.  The area occupied by the reintroduced prairie dogs was approximately. 3.5 ha, yielding a density of prairie dogs of 17 individuals/ha.  “Natural” densities of Gunnison’s prairie dog have been documented to range from 8—12 individuals /ha.   All reintroduced prairie dogs were adults, with a sex ratio of 1:1.  Following reintroduction, observations and subsequent trapping indicated that no young were born during the 1st year (1997) and there were 36 (60%) known survivors at the end of the 1st summer (density of about 10 individuals/ha).  Relocations occurred during the time when prairie dogs would have been copulating; disturbance from trapping was probably the main reason for no reproduction in 1997.

    Small mammals and vegetation also were sampled on both a treatment (reintroduction site) and a control site (without prairie dogs) before and after the prairie dogs were reintroduced.  Anna Davidson tested for differences in small-mammal and plant-community change during the 1st year of the colony’s existence using repeated measures analysis of variance.  Although prairie dog biomass was 32 times greater than that of the resident rodent community (1.2 kg), reintroduction of prairie dogs had no significant effect on the resident small mammal and plant communities.  Percent cover and species richness of plants, and total biomass and abundance of rodents did not change during the 1st year following reintroduction of prairie dogs.  However, two rodent species showed significant differences in abundance between the prairie dog colony and the control site.  The banner-tailed kangaroo rat (Dipodomys spectabilis) was significantly more abundant on the treatment site before and after the reintroduction of prairie dogs.  In contrast, the white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) was significantly more abundant on the control site following reintroduction of prairie dogs.  Habitat modifications made by the former prairie dog colony may have been responsible for the habitat preferences observed by D. spectabilis and P. leucopus.  Although the reintroduction of prairie dogs had no observable influence on the resident small mammal and plant communities in the short-term, their influences may be more evident on a long-term time scale.

    Short-term studies like this are important, but long-term monitoring of reintroductions is essential in understanding the success of these efforts for conservation, and for understanding the roles of these keystone animals on the grassland ecosystem.  The purpose of this 10 year re-sampling effort proposed here is two-fold: 1) to reassess the success of the colony reestablishment 10 years after their reintroduction by evaluating the population status, demographics, and genetics; and 2) to assess the long-term impacts of this reintroduced colony on plants and other small mammals.  (with Anna Davidson)