Dr. Eric Baitchman, DVM, DACZM
Zoo New England, Franklin Park Zoo, Boston, MA
Zoo New England and Grassroots Wildlife Conservation are working on the Franklin Park Biodiversity Project to assess and preserve the natural biodiversity of Franklin Park in Boston, MA, and engage the local community in education of biodiversity and conservation.
Seasonal surveys have been conducted to record observations of wildlife within the "Wilderness" section of the park, outside of Franklin Park Zoo's gates. Each survey, or bio-blitz, is conducted over nine days during which time staff and public participants catalogue observations of mammals, amphibians, birds, reptiles, invertebrates, plants, and fungi, using iNaturalist. More than 300 species have been identified thus far.
We just completed this year's summer surveys this past week and were finally able to include bats in our observations by using the Echo Meter Touch. We held a well-attended public bat walk where we made our first recordings of local bat species. A dozen participants had a very good experience, and the EMT was key to that success. The device provides such an engaging and educational interface to get people excited about finding bats and "experiencing" exactly what's going on as the often unseen shapes fly by in the night. At least two different bat species were added to our biodiversity survey, including big brown bats and red bats, and possibly a third, the silver haired bat, though we are still learning about determining accuracy of the identifications made with the device.
Franklin Park Zoo will host an additional public walk this summer and we are excited to be joined by a Wildlife Acoustics staff member, who will help both the public participants and ourselves to learn more about how the technology works and how to better interpret the results.
We held a second public bat walk around Scarboro Pond in Franklin Park this September. Members of the public were led by ZNE Education and Conservation staff, as well as Wildlife Acoustics, Inc. employees, Mona Doss and Ali Donargo. We were so lucky to have Mona and Ali with us, as they were able to augment our program significantly, by sharing their expertise with our guests and providing additional Echo Meter Touch units to allow more people to have hands-on experience with detecting bats. Guests learned about bat diversity in our region, how that diversity has changed in recent decades, natural history of our native bats, the enormous ecological services bats provide us, and the conservation challenges facing bats today. The technology of the EMT allows such a personal experience for an entire family to have closer engagement to the bats surrounding them. Everyone from children to adults light up as they get to watch signals from bats being instantly translated to a species identification, complete with accompanying portrait! That personal level of interaction is what our public programs are all about, inspiring citizen scientists to recognize and care for the natural diversity present in their own neighborhoods.
Our staff learned a great deal from Mona and Ali as well, about how the technology works and about interpreting results from our EMT units, giving us a greater degree of confidence in our identifications. On the September walk, we identified big brown bats, red bats, and silver-haired bats.
The bat walk took place on Thursday, August 23 at Franklin Park Zoo. We had six guests register and attend the event. The group was provided information about local bat species including species we may encounter on our walk and adaptations the bats have to live in an urban habitat. We also discussed threats that bats face in urban environments and how we can help protect local bat species.
We had two iPads connected to the Echo Meter Touch and Wildlife Acoustics app that the group used. Although we did not detect any bats on the EMT or see any around the zoo, the guests were very engaged and excited to learn about the EMT and local bat species. Participants received “Massachusetts Homeowner’s Guide to Bats” and an info sheet about building a bat house provided by MA Division of Fisheries & Wildlife and information about the Echo Meter Touch provided by Wildlife Acoustics.