ABSTRACTS AND PRESENTER BIOS
BUILDING BAT-FRIENDLY COMMUNITIES IN BC
Presenter: Mandy Kellner, Provincial Coordinator, BC Community Bat Program
Bats face many threats, from White-nose Syndrome to habitat loss. At the same time, they are an essential part of local ecosystems that we cannot afford to lose. Developing a bat-friendly community is a way to take local action on many aspects of bat conservation. A bat-friendly community approach is holistic and works to incorporate bat habitats into planning processes, reduces direct threats to bats, and promotes education and awareness of bats. The end result: a town where bat habitat is valued and protected, where citizens are aware of bats and the threats they face locally and nationally, and where citizens are engaged in educational and stewardship activities to protect bats and bat habitat. The BC Community Bat Program has information and resources to support groups that are interested in making their town more bat-friendly. Contact us at by email or visit the BC Bats web site.
Mandy is a wildlife biologist with over 20 years working on bats and diverse other species, including loons and mountain caribou. Mandy has a BSc from McGill University, where she focussed on ecology and animal behaviour, and an MSc from Simon Fraser University, studying bat habitat selection in coastal old growth and harvested forests. Mandy is a Registered Professional Biologist, and has been the lead on bat projects across the province. For the past four years, she has been the provincial coordinator for an internationally-recognized bat conservation, stewardship, and citizen science program, the BC Community Bat Program. She is an active member with the BC Bat Action Team and various national and international working groups on bat health, outreach, and bat boxes. Mandy is an avid climber and skier, with a new passion for coaching teenagers in Nordic skiing.
EXAMPLES FROM THE FIELD – PEACHLAND, RICHMOND, AND KELOWNA
Darlene Hartford, Rachel Truant, Heidi Slyngbom, BEEPS Peachland
Warren Mills, Environmental Coordinator, City of Richmond
Alison Campbell Urness, Regional Parks Interpreter, Regional District of Central Okanagan
BC currently has three certified bat-friendly communities (Dawson Creek, Peachland, and Richmond), with numerous other municipalities undertaking actions to increase knowledge and awareness of bats. Highlights from two certified communities (Peachland and Richmond) and one community developing bat outreach and educational materials (Regional District of Central Okanagan) illustrate different approaches that can be used to implement bat conservation locally. The approaches used to promote bat conservation range from public outreach to economic valuation of bats to habitat protection, according to local interests and capacity.
Warren Mills is an Environmental Coordinator at the City of Richmond specializing in contaminated sites investigation and remediation, property acquisition land quality assessments, spill response, soil movement, and the BC Site Identification process. He is additionally a provincial Councillor, and a past Vancouver Branch president with the BC Institute of Agrologists (BCIA). Bat education and habitat conservation is a new passion for Warren and recently he has helped lead Richmond to becoming the newest Bat-friendly Community in BC.
Alison is a Regional Parks interpreter for the Regional District of Central Okanagan where she is responsible for programs, events, exhibit development, construction, fabrication, and media relations. She enjoys moving through the wilderness, hoping for a moose or bear sighting, with her family (mom of two teens) on bike, trail run, hike, skis or paddle. Alison enjoys taking the opportunities to explore as they come.
The Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society (BEEPS) was founded in 2015, two years after the restoration of the Historic Peachland Primary School, which acts as a roost for a colony of bats. It was known for decades that a large bat colony was inhabiting the attic of the old schoolhouse, which was built in 1908. However, it wasn’t until 2013, when the old Primary School building was restored and reopened as the Peachand Visitor Centre, that the presence of the bats was formally acknowledged. Today, BEEPS actively promotes the protection and preservation of bat species in Peachland, and to educate the public as a means of achieving these goals. Members of BEEPS Board of Directors including Heidi Slyngbom, President, Rachel Truant, Secretary, and Darlene Hartford, Director, will be presenting on behalf of their organization.
URBAN BAT CONSERVATION AND INTEGRATING RESEARCH
Markus Merkens, Natural Resource Management Specialist, Regional Parks Central Area for Metro Vancouver
Robyn Worcester, Natural Resource Management Specialist, Regional Parks West Area for Metro Vancouver
As land managers for some of the Lower Mainland’s largest intact natural areas, Metro Vancouver Regional Park staff are responsible for balancing the needs of wildlife and the 12 million visitors that frequent these parks annually. Many regional parks are safe havens for bats as they depend on the intact habitats, roosting structures, and active protection they are afforded. As well, bats in regional parks are fortunate to be studied and monitored by bat enthusiasts in the region and are the subject of a range of public education and stewardship activities. Two Natural Resource Management Specialists will team up to provide more insight into active park management efforts for these important animals, including habitat protection and enhancement, inventory and monitoring partnerships, and building maintenance and coexistence strategies.
As a biologist, Markus has focused on ecosystem management that integrates human use of natural resources with conservation of ecological goods and services. He has worked in the fields of agriculture, forestry and park management. His current position as a Natural Resource Management Specialist with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks involves protecting natural resources while developing park management tools that allow people to connect with, learn from, respect and benefit from natural areas and their inhabitants. His current research interests include determining which wildlife species occupy parks, their seasonal and spatial patterns of use, and the effect of park management on species distribution and behaviour.
Robyn has over 15 years’ experience working in the environmental field within local government and with non-profit organizations within Metro Vancouver. She was born and raised in Vancouver and is passionate about urban ecology, protected area management and connecting people with nature. As a Natural Resource Management Specialist for Metro Vancouver Regional Parks she works to protect the region’s unique biodiversity and facilitates community participation in park stewardship and citizen science initiatives. Through her work as a Registered Professional Biologist, Robyn has focused much energy on protecting and promoting awareness of wildlife populations that rely on urban ecosystems. In 2008 she implemented a bat monitoring program with the Stanley Park Ecology Society and continues to work closely with bat monitoring programs in the region through her role in the South Coast Bat Conservation Society.
LOCAL STEWARDSHIP AND COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN BAT CONSERVATION
Presenter: John Saremba, Burke Mountain Naturalists Bat Team Coordinator
John Saremba will describe key components of a comprehensive bat stewardship and community volunteer program in the Tri-Cities region. He will share information about the Burke Mountain Naturalists Society (BMN) bat program. Over the past five years, this program has conducted a variety of conservation activities including bat monitoring, bat box installations, bat habitat assessments, citizen-science research studies, education and outreach, and collaboration with bat researchers. The BMN bat program participants conduct bat counts at three regional parks, contributing 200 to 300 person-hours of volunteer time annually for this field work. As part of the research permit for bat monitoring in these regional parks, the BMN bat program is also involved in the BC Community Bat Program’s fresh spring guano collection for early detection of white-nose syndrome. John will touch on the value of initiating strategic alliances with municipal agencies and other groups to promote the study and enhancement of bat habitat..
John’s academic credentials include a Master’s degree in Natural Resource Management and a Provincial Instructor’s diploma. He has more than 30 years of professional experience as a biologist and environmental specialist in the field of monitoring, impact assessment, mitigation measures, training, and project coordination. John’s focus, both as a professional and now as a volunteer with various nature groups, is on the protection of fish and wildlife species, as well as the enhancement of their habitat.
After retiring, John continues to coordinate and conduct a diverse range of nature conservation projects on a volunteer basis. In recent years, John has developed a major program for stewardship and community involvement in the conservation of bats and protection of their habitat. Through the Burke Mountain Naturalists Society, volunteer bat enthusiasts are able to conduct a range of bat-related activities and field work in the Tri-Cities and Fraser Valley region.
LIVING WITH BATS
Presenter: Danielle Dagenais, Regional Coordinator, BC Community Bat Program
Bats are found in many buildings throughout BC. Understanding bats, which bats use buildings, and how bats use buildings is important to help with the management and conservation of BC bats. Bats are often not welcomed due to fears and misunderstandings, yet there is little to no concerns for people living with bats. When living with bats, people must learn how to manage the problem not the bats. Most problems stem from guano, which can be easily managed. People must be made aware of bat protocol and of local activity. Learning about bats will help minimize encounters.
Danielle Dagenais has been working and volunteering on bat projects since 2011. She has many hats when it comes to bats. She is a Regional Coordinator for the Community Bat Programs of BC, the Outreach Coordinator for the South Coast Bat Conservation Society, and has her own consulting company, EcoEd. Danielle organizes and leads bat presentations, bat walks, and bat house building workshops in the area, as well as provides bat education to youth groups and schools, and conducts bat box assessments in the region. Danielle completed a Master of Science assessing bat foraging activity over vineyards in the Okanagan Valley using an array of unique bat microphones and radar.
BATS AND HUMAN HEALTH
Presenter: Dr. Erin Fraser, BC Centre for Disease Control
While bats are intrinsically valuable and provide substantial ecological benefits, they can also present health risks to people. This presentation will cover the following topics related to bats and human health: rabies, histoplasmosis, and bat bugs. In BC, bats are the only reservoir for rabies virus but all mammals, including humans, are susceptible to the bat-variant rabies virus. Histoplasmosis is a respiratory infection that is caused by a fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, that can be found in soil and in bird and bat droppings. Histoplasma infections have not been detected in BC to date. Bat bugs (Cimex sp) are blood-feeding ectoparasites of bats. They are usually found in the vicinity of roosting areas rather than directly on bats and, in some circumstances, can be found in homes and bite people.
Erin is a public health veterinarian at the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC). She is a graduate of the University of Guelph and has over 20 years of experience as an epidemiologist, public health veterinarian, researcher, and executive director. She co-founded Veterinarians without Borders – Canada and was the organization’s first executive director. She has worked across Canada and internationally with interdisciplinary, multicultural teams to develop programs and projects that address public and animal health issues from zoonotic disease surveillance, prevention, detection, and control, to wildlife health, food security, and factors that affect livelihoods. Her current work at the BCCDC includes surveillance of zoonotic diseases (with a focus on rabies), foodborne pathogens, antimicrobial resistance in companion animals, and climate change and tickborne diseases.
THE GOLDILOCKS APPROACH: USE OF BAT BOXES IN A CHANGING LANDSCAPE AND CLIMATE
Presenter: Dr. Cori Lausen, Associate Conservation Scientist, Bat Specialist, Wildlife Conservation Society Canada
Due to their uniqueness as the only flying mammal, bats have the tightest energy budgets and the largest surface area to volume ratio of skin of any small mammal. And this means they easily lose water and are limited by what their wings can carry. How bats store and burn a restricted amount of fat, and prevent dehydration even when nursing a hungry pup, is an ecological, behaviorally and physiologically intriguing story: Goldilocks and the Three Things Bats Need to Survive. Bats need sufficient fat, sufficient water, and a place to hide. Although this sounds easy, and in fact most bats can roost just about anywhere if they need to, only highly specific roost conditions will enable an adult female bat to successfully rear a pup. Enter bat boxes. Some species of bats have adapted to using human-built structures to find the microclimates they need and increase their ability to cluster, which is both an energy-saving and water-saving strategy. It is the longevity of bats and their fidelity to return year after year to the same roosting area to raise young that makes them vulnerable and can turn your well intentioned bat box into an ecological sink. How do you recognize an ecological sink? What can you do to prevent them? How should bat boxes be used to ensure suitable habitats are provided for female bats to raise young in our rural and urban landscapes? And when is a bat box inappropriate?
Bats are complex mammals with varying habitat needs throughout the year and from year to year as our climate changes and annual weather patterns become less predictable. The premise behind the Goldilocks Approach to providing artificial roosting habitat is recognize that no one ‘crevice roost’ is ever going to suffice to meet the needs of a colony of reproductive bats. In a natural ecosystem, bats use a myriad of crevice roosts to find that ‘just right’ set of temperatures and humidity over each 24 hour period of the reproductive season. It is not uncommon for a colony of bats to use dozens or more different roosts during the course of a summer. How can we possibly meet the needs of a colony of bats in the absence of natural crevices? It can be difficult and it is no wonder that buildings, with multitudes of cracks and crannies each offering a different daily suite of microclimates, have been so widely selected as roosts by bats in our urban and rural areas. But as evictions and building upgrades continue, bats that have depended on our buildings for, in some cases, decades, now face the challenge of finding suitable habitat to rear young. In this presentation I will discuss options and strategies for using bat boxes effectively and safely.
Cori is a bat research and conservation biologist, and has an MSc and PhD on bats focusing on behaviour and physiology, and landscape genetics, respectively. She has developed a comprehensive western Canada bat conservation program with WCS Canada. This program is currently comprised of 5 main collaborative projects: North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat), Critical Evaluation of Bat Boxes and Developing a Continental BMP, Developing and Testing a Probiotic to Reduce Bat Mortality Caused by WNS, and Predictive WNS Survivorship Modelling for Western Bat Species, Winter Ecology of Western Bats (see wcsbats.ca for more details). Cori helped design the US-Canada NABat program and continues to steer this continental initiative. She was asked by the US Fish and Wildlife Service to write a continental Best Management Practices guidance document for use of bat boxes, and she now co-leads a joint US-Canada Bat Box BMP Development Committee with Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative. Cori is an adjunct professor at Thompson Rivers University where she currently supervises 2 MSc students (Probiotic Project, Bat Box Project). She also teaches bat acoustics courses as part of her program’s ongoing fundraising and training goals.
HOW TO FIND INFORMATION ON IMPORTANT BAT HABITATS
Presenter: Orville Dyer, Biologist
We need to know where to find important bat habitats to be able to protect them. This presentation will identify habitats that bats need to survive, where to find existing information and how you can collect new information to inform a Bat Friendly Community conservation plan.
Orville Dyer worked for the BC Government as a biologist for nearly 40 years. His main focus was on species and ecosystems at risk recovery in the Okanagan Valley, a national hot spot for species at risk. Most recently, Orville was BC’s Bat Conservation Specialist before retiring in 2020.