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UNBC researcher leads bats excursion for community at Wells Barkerville forest

Researcher says the group might have even identified the presence of endangered bat species
The excursion held on July 22 gave participants a chance to observe the activities of bats in Wells Barkerville Community Forest. (File photo)

A late evening excursion in the Wells Barkerville Community Forest saw participants develop a renewed interest in bats.

The event, hosted by Island Mountain Arts, was led by Prince George-based researcher Brett Gandy, who is an incoming masters student at UNBC.

Gandy’s research is on the habitat selection of bats. He has been trying to get a baseline of what species are present in the Wells area.

The excursion, held after 9 p.m. on July 22, saw 16 people go out into the forest with Gandy, who said the group was lucky to see some bats that night. Prior to the excursion, Gandy also conducted a workshop for children at Island Mountain Arts, which saw them make bat boxes to be placed at spots in the community.

Gandy said the forest excursion group got to observe some of the nocturnal mammals’ activities on monitors using the science of echolocation.

“We had this little device called an echo meter. It essentially records and listens to bats echolocating in real-time, and then it’ll look at these features of the bats and identify species,” Gandy said.

He said they identified a couple of species that could potentially be in the area. Although the discovery needs to be confirmed, Gandy said Wells might be home to two federally endangered species: the northern myotis and the little brown myotis. “So it was nice to see that there’s the potential presence of those species,” he said.

While this was his first excursion, Gandy said the turnout was good and he plans to hold another at the end of August.

”It’s great that researchers are taking interest in the ecosystem around the area,” said Elyssia Sasaki, executive director of Island Mountain Arts.

Sasaki said that with climate change and growing industrial presence, research such as Gandy is doing is “valuable” to take stock of biodiversity and species in the area.

Read More: Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

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