Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Faculty-led research project on sex-biased parasitism in bats by Brenna Hynes

            During our third week at La Selva Biological Station we had the opportunity to participate in field work for three different faculty-led research projects. Between the three projects we got to conduct surveys, set traps, use equipment, and get a significant amount of hands-on experience. My personal favorite of the three projects was one that involved going out into the forest at night to net bats and tweeze parasites (ticks, mites, and flies) off of them. We did this so that we could determine whether or not parasites had a preference towards male or female bats.
My first question was “why is this important?”. Leith, our awesome and enthusiastic faculty member, explained to us that because male bats live solitarily and tend to fly a lot further away from the roost than female bats do, they are much more likely to come into contact with humans and pass on parasites (and the diseases that they may carry) to humans. That means that evaluating the differences in parasite patterns amongst female and male bats can tell us a lot about how threatening bats really are to people. If female bats are the ones with all the parasites the risk of bats spreading diseases to humans is low.  I thought that this was a really awesome example of how the environment can be connected to human health, which is one of the main themes of the program.

Our mentor, Leith Miller, restraining one of the bats we caught as part of our project.
I also just found this project to be really fun and interesting. Before this research project I would have never imagined myself getting this kind of experience working with bats. I knew very little about their dispersal patterns, importance to the ecosystem, unique qualities, habitat, and even their appearance because I had never had the opportunity to see one up close prior to this experience. Reading articles, talking to Leith, and getting some hands-on experience with bats has taught me so much about these animals. This project has made me more interested in interacting with and/or learning about other types of wildlife. There is an endless list of animal species that I know very little about and I would love to start crossing things off of it! I think that the upcoming three months will help me do this. I consider experiences such as these to be one of the most amazing things about going abroad to a country like Costa Rica. This type of learning cannot be done in a classroom in the United States.

No comments:

Post a Comment