By Dr. Kloepper

Another field season is underway! We left the road at 4am on May 30 from Saint Mary’s with a rental Suburban full of field gear and positive attitudes. This year we had a full car–Kate and Lilly (rising seniors) and Morgan (SMC Belle Bats alumna). We prepped for a long day on the road with enough snacks for 20 people and plenty of upbeat playlists. We all shared driving duties, rotating every 2 hours, which allowed people in the back to get some much-needed naps. We also listened to the entire Habitat podcast, about people living in a small house for a year isolated from everyone else, unable to leave except in a space suit. Habitat is a real research project funded by NASA to help understand the psychology of humans living on Mars. We joked at the remarkable similarities between living on “Mars” and living in our small bunkhouse for a month, isolated from all signs of civilization.

The drive went by remarkably fast. We stopped in Amarillo, Texas, for an overnight in a hotel, then pushed on through to New Mexico the following day. We enjoyed the sites on the road, like this massive wind turbine blade:

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And made sure to stop to get a picture of the girls (Lily, Morgan and Kate) when we hit the New Mexico border:

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Just outside of Albuquerque, we stopped to say hi to Belle, who was busy being trained for her upcoming field work next week:

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We stopped in Truth or Consequences to stock up on groceries, then continued on to the ranch. We had plenty of time to unpack and get the house squared away before we went to see the emergence. It was so rewarding for me to see the look on everyone’s faces when they watched the bats—Kate and Lily seeing emergence for the first time, and Morgan experiencing it for year two. I think I spent more time watching them than watching the bats!

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After the first night of observing, it was time to get to work! The next day we built our bird blinds, which allows us to video the hawks that feed on the bats. By being hidden away, we reduce the chance of our behavior influencing the animals. The girls learned how to grommet and we had fun pounding away the rest of the afternoon. We assembled our blinds right outside of the cave, and we have now had two nights of successful data collection. We are all doing focal follows of hawks—Kate and Lily with video cameras, and Morgan and me with binoculars. We have started to get into the routine of data downloading, archiving, and analysis…we are all settled in and ready for a month of intense fieldwork and data analysis!