LEXINGTON — Illinois State University professor Angelo Capparella was once bitten by a vampire bat. Really.
But that's not why he's been going out after dark for the last month or so. Instead, the wildlife biologist and one of his students, Madison Myers of Mendota, have been studying bats from sunset to about midnight.
They are using a special device that detects the "beeps" bats use for echolocation to find their way — and find their prey — in the dark.
The sun has just set over a swamp east of Santa Cruz, Calif., and Gary Kittleson is putting on a headlamp and waders. The environmental consultant is searching for red-legged frogs. Some years, he says, he would be ecstatic to find just one or two.
This marshland, called the Watsonville Slough, is vital habitat for red-legged frogs. The red-legged frog, which was overhunted for frogs legs and lost much of its habitat to development, is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A local land trust hired Kittleson to count them so it could determine whether the population is growing or shrinking.
Lights from inside skyscrapers make or break a city's skyline. They also kill as many as 600 million migrating birds each year by throwing them off track as they try to navigate by the moon and stars. Skyscrapers from the Chrysler Building to the Sears Tower, and hundreds of buildings in between, take part in the National Audubon Society's Lights Out campaigns during spring and fall bird migrations by switching off all unnecessary lights or drawing the shades. In one study, bird fatalities in Chicago decreased by 80 percent when building lights there were off.
It's not just lights on skyscrapers that can impact migrating birds--new research in The Condor: Ornithological Applications demonstrates that even ground-level artificial lights can affect birds passing overhead at night.
One day last summer, just before sundown, a troop of biologists knelt around some oversized lunchboxes in a grove of Monterey pines more than 50 feet tall. Inside the boxes lay masses of looping cables and highly sensitive audio recorders, which the young researchers hurried to untangle. They were hunting for bats, but they weren’t allowed to stay past dark.