Foundation of the Distance State University for the Development and Promotion of Distance Education (FUNDEPREDI), Costa Rica
I'm happy to share good news on how well our citizen science project with high school kids is starting to develop. We secured the participation of five local high schools (only one more pending!), in rural communities of Santa Cruz, Guanacaste Province, Costa Rica. After a series of meetings with the principals and school teachers, I must say that we are truly amazed and motivated by the warmth and emotion with which they welcomed us at the different institutions.
In each one of these sessions, we explained why bats are key contributors to healthy ecosystems and presented the general plan of the research project. In addition, we described how innovative technological tools, such as the Echo Meter Touch 2, are useful to monitor wildlife, and in this particular case, how students are going to be able to record bat ultrasounds just by conveniently connecting them to cell phones! I feel optimistic with the keen interest among our growing group of allies (from public and private sectors) in facilitating the students’ engagement with our project.
We have already set specific dates and coordinated most of the logistics for the upcoming workshops with the students, to teach them how to use the Echo Meter Touch 2. Once they have received training and the equipment, we will start recording bats in a synchronized effort on multiple spots of the Santa Cruz landscape. Therefore, not only our research team will grow with their participation, but students will also benefit from experiencing science and technology first-hand. More importantly, project participants will then have the power to teach other people about the importance of protecting bats and the numerous benefits they provide. More soon!
In 2019, we worked closely with different institutions. Due to certain delays beyond our control, including a country-wide strike, we still need to complete the program in some of them, but we successfully did in one already, and our expectation is to include more in the near future. The focus of this update report is to provide general information about our acoustic monitoring program and the sample obtained by some of the students thus far.
Our Bat Acoustic Monitoring program begins with a two-part workshop that may be completed in 1-2 days. The first part includes two interactive presentations: one explains why protecting bats is important and links the ecological and economic benefits they provide to our own ways of living, while the other deals with bioacoustics, bat echolocation and how we can use their calls to collect valuable ecological information. The second part is a hands-on session where students learn how to use the Echo Meter Touch device and app. This workshop is followed by an independent acoustic monitoring period, where students collect bat calls during 2-3 nights. An instructive manual accompanies students throughout the program.
We conducted part one of the workshop in three different high schools, which amounted to 58 students in total. We also conducted part two of the workshop in two schools, one with 13 students and 24 in the other. Due to the difficulties highlighted above, we have only conducted the monitoring component with a subgroup of the latter. As a result, a group of seven students fruitfully completed the monitoring protocol. Together, they sampled 19 nights and collected 2,207 recordings in total! These files are currently being analyzed.
We hope we can continue working on this program soon, once the COVID-19 sanitary guidelines allow us to do so. Meanwhile, we are fine-tuning the procedure and revising the compatibility among devices for future participants to make the most of the experience. We expect to train more students about the importance of bat conservation and the novel opportunities that the EMT2 bat detector provides to study and appreciate wildlife.