By Maggie Gleason
My college graduation took place at my home in Columbus, Ohio. Like many seniors all over the world, I saddened that the four years of hard work ended this way. I like to think of myself as a person who generally has a positive attitude and outlook on life. Usually, things have a way of working out; we may not know how yet, but somehow they do. After graduating, I was unsure about what the next steps were going to be. I had plans to work with Dr. Laura Kloepper over the summer to help track and analyze bats in flight, however, all of these plans were up in the air and there was a long game of waiting. There was a feeling of immense relief and excitement when Dr. Kloepper finally gave us the news that summer research was still going to continue.
I started working with Kloepper Lab my second year of college. However, unlike many members who worked on bat research, I started studying shrews, a small mammal that also produces ultrasonic vocalizations. For three years I have experienced the excitement and stress of field work while capturing and recording shrews on campus. While I do love shrews and continue to mentor a student and friend as she takes over the project, there is a whole new excitement now that I am finally able to study bats in the bat lab.
Because this summer is a little different, there are protocols and a whole new set of rules to follow in order to proceed with this research safely. First and foremost, we must wear masks when we are around each other and/or in the Science Hall. Although this is very simple, I always feel out of breath whenever I am talking to my team a lot. Second is social distancing, which isn’t too bad. Third, we have to follow the rules of social isolation and are only allowed in certain areas of the Science Hall. This includes having to use the men’s bathroom, which was repurposed to a second women’s room, instead of the current women’s room to further limit contact between the other teams working in the science hall. One member of our bat team has yet to join us as her quarantine period from traveling has not ended yet, but that has not stopped us from working together using video chat. This saturday, our whole bat crew will finally be assembled. In order to better protect the group by limiting contact with outside people, we are all living in the same dwelling and are considered a family unit per CDC guidelines.
The few drawbacks aside, I am so thankful that I have this opportunity. The first week of the job has been really fun. So far we have been learning and training tracking bats on a MATLAB program. Like the majority of computer programs, there is a learning curve. Being a part of the team is amazing because we figured out the program and went through all of the practice videos three times within the first three days (we are very proud of this accomplishment). We continue to work on tracking bats, reading papers, and discussing science with lab members. Now our goals are set for preparing to go out into the field and record bats in Kansas later in the month.