It has been a beautiful week. The weather has been AMAZING, and I’ve been out in the field a lot. This week we started our bat inventory project by setting out ultrasonic detectors. These detectors recognize and record acoustic bat activity. The overarching goal of this project is to manage bat habitat in the Chugach National Forest by determining distribution, habitat use, and habitat preferences. This acoustic study is paired with a thorough plant and habitat survey of the immediate areas surrounding each detector. This part of the study is extremely important because, up until now, bats have been found everywhere that detectors have been set. This isn’t the best situation in terms of habitat management. There has to be some underlying reason for what is attracting bats to be where they are. So far, Alaska is as far north as bats have been found. As I mentioned, a major goal of this study is to determine how the habitats of the Chugach are being utilized by bats. Are certain areas preferred as migratory corridors? Where are they roosting? Where are they reproducing? Where are they hibernating? Where are they foraging? Is their spread so far north only due to the presence of man-made structures and their utilization as shelter during the winter? What other species are present? So far, only one species has been confirmed, Little Brown Myotis, but it is speculated that another species is also present. My favorite part of this whole effort, besides the fact that I have the opportunity to contribute to a really cool study, has been cruising around with Matt Prinzing, a Student Conservation Association wildlife intern, through the forest searching for areas we think bats would like. I’ve had a lot of moments like this on the job. I get to “work” in some of the most beautiful habitat I’ve ever been in. I still can’t believe it.
Another perk of the job is having the opportunity to piggyback on other people’s projects. Elizabeth Camarata, a seasonal technician, scratched my back and I scratched hers. It is Forest Service regulation here that employees can’t go out into the field alone outside a certain proximity to town. She needed aquatic vegetation sampling, and we needed a certified gun bearer. So, Elizabeth accompanied Matt and I out to one of our bat sites and helped with our vegetation survey, and she had someone to collect her aquatic vegetation with. Hiking with smart people in beautiful scenery with pretty flowers–kind of my most favorite thing ever.