Saturday, December 29, 2007

My first poster

As promised, you can download the poster that Gabe and I presented in Merida. The poster describes our efforts to document any interference introduced by the waterproof casing I made for the Pettersson D240x bat detector. OK, I'll try to translate that into english. The equipment we use to record bat calls is like your digital camera or ipod; it can't get wet. Unfortunately, bats do not fly only when it's dry out! So I designed a couple of alternatives for ways to keep it dry in the field. However, the equipment is also very sensitive, and I figured that anything surrounding it might somehow interfere with the bat calls I'm trying to record. Imagine if you're listening to music, and then you put a bucket over your head -- think the music might sound different? The real question is, does it make the sound so different that you can't tell who is singing? So we set out the detectors both in the casings and "naked" and recorded the same calls on each to compare. The short answer is: yes, there was interference, but you could still tell who was singing. Yay! Now I can get on with my research! For more information, download the poster and check it out. If you want more info, such as schematics for the "winning" casing, just post a question here and I'll get back to you.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Pair of mormoops

Here's another bat we caught in nets at the cave in the Yucatan. The most frequently caught bat that night was the local Momoops, which was probably the ghost-faced bat, Mormoops megalophylla. Besides having a cool name and ultra-strange faces, these bats are different from their Phyllostomid cousins by having their echolocation decorations on their mouth instead of their nose. They live in caves and eat only insects. See if you can find their tiny eyes. Also, which one is upside down?

Yucatan bat

I'm going to post a couple of bat photos from last summer's trip to Mexico. You can find more of my pictures of bats here and some of my photos from Chichen and elsewhere in the Yucatan here. This Sturnira bat was caught in a net just outside the Tzabnah cave near the village of Tecoh. You could easily identify these fruit bats by the dark fur on the shoulder, particularly dark on this individual. This is a member of the Phyllostomids, the leaf-nosed bats -- see the leaf on its nose? They are a very remarkable and diverse group of neotropical bats. Members of this family eat a wide variety of foods, from nectar, pollen, and fruit to insects, fish, birds, and even blood. Yes, the three species of vampire bats are Phyllostomids! Sadly we didn't find any of them. Neither did we find the False Vampire -- with its 3-foot wingspan (!) it eats pretty much everything except blood. I think we caught at least ten different species that night, but I don't remember the name of the Sturnira species we were catching nor do I have the complete list. If you're reading this and you were there -- send me your notes! The nose leaves are specially evolved for echolocation. Of course they still have eyes, pretty large in this individual. But they can also "see" through their nose!

Monday, December 17, 2007

International bat conference, Merida

Well. I can't believe that I haven't posted anything since the end of July. After my last post, I went down to Merida, in the Mexican Yucatan peninsula, for the annual bat researcher conference. I presented my first scientific poster (I'll post a link to it soon), with final results of the same project I previewed in my first oral presentation last January. This one I co-presented with my buddy Gabe, who helped with the research and the poster design. The conference was a blast, despite the many missing people who were scared off by Hurricane Dean, which threatened to pass right over Merida. It turned out that we missed it completely, but the pre-storm drama certainly added to the excitement of the conference for those of us brave enough to show up. I managed to go on a couple of field trips as well, to Chichen Itza, recently named one of the seven wonders of the world, and to some cenotes. The image above is one of the faces of the dead near the ball field at Chichen. Our guide didn't know if the faces represented game winners or losers, which I guess is kind of like life; we all end up dead. This lucky one at least gets a corner view over the big pyramid. You can see more of my photos here.