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Mammoth Cave National Park to host Bat Night event Aug. 29

WKU will be among the agencies and organizations participating in the 5th annual Bat Night celebration on Aug. 29 at Mammoth Cave National Park. The event, hosted by the park and the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning, is free and everyone is invited to attend.

Visitors look on as National Park Service scientists Steven Thomas and Rick Toomey examine a bat at last year's Bat Night at Mammoth Cave National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

Visitors look on as National Park Service scientists Steven Thomas and Rick Toomey examine a bat at last year’s Bat Night at Mammoth Cave National Park. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

“Bat Night gives our visitors and neighbors a glimpse into the bat-related research that is being conducted at the park,” said Superintendent Sarah Craighead. “It’s amazing what researchers are learning about bat behavior, like diet, communications, what species are present, and where they hang out. Continuing bat research is particularly important in light of the impact of white-nose syndrome that we have already seen here at Mammoth Cave.”

Despite its name, Bat Night is a daylong event beginning at 10 a.m. Daytime activities are at the Visitor Center, while the evening activities will be centered at the Historic Entrance of Mammoth Cave.

Interactive display tables on the Visitor Center porch (10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) will show general information about bats and examples of scientific equipment used to study bats. Visitors of all ages are encouraged to stop by, ask questions, and learn more about bats and bat research. Junior Ranger activities that day will focus on bats.

In the evening at the Historic Entrance (7-9 p.m.), scientists will showcase bat-related research equipment at eight stations. Visitors are encouraged to visit each station, see the equipment in action and chat with the researchers.

“As Bat Night has grown, we have integrated active research into the event,” said Park Ranger Leslie Price. “Instead of just learning about how research is done, visitors can now see research actually taking place.”

“Starting at dusk, researchers will capture bats in fine nets, identify their species and give them a checkup, similar to what we expect when we go to the doctor,” said Shannon Trimboli, education coordinator for the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning. “Visitors can watch as scientists measure each bat’s height, weight, and assess their general health. Data from Mammoth Cave will be contributed to the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network’s Bat Blitz, which compiles a snapshot of fall bat populations across the region.”

The Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning is a partnership between Mammoth Cave National Park and WKU.

Dr. Cathleen Webb, Associate Dean for Research in WKU’s Ogden College of Science and Engineering, will be collecting hair samples from some bats as part of an ongoing research project at Mammoth Cave.

“Some of the bats will get a haircut,” Trimboli said. “Snips of their fur will be analyzed for mercury as part of ongoing air quality research at Western Kentucky University.”

Stations at the Historic Entrance will include night vision goggles, night vision cameras, thermal infrared cameras, acoustic bat detectors that allow people to hear bat calls, black lights so people can see some of the insects that the bats might be eating, nets for capturing bats, and a “bat check-up and haircut” station.

Some evening activities will take place on the Visitor Center porch for those who may not want to walk down to the Historic Entrance.

The night vision goggles will be located at the gate of the Historic Entrance. Visitors wishing to use the night vision goggles are encouraged to bring a jacket because cold cave air will be flowing out of the cave while they are waiting in line and using the goggles.  (These participants will be required to walk across bio-security mats to clean their shoes to help minimize the spread of white-nose syndrome in bats.)

“Bat Night has been a huge success every year and continues to grow in size and popularity,” said Craighead. “We are thankful to our 30+ research partners and volunteers who make this event possible. We look forward to continuing this important work with them and hosting this event again in the future.”

Agencies and organizations involved in this year’s Bat Night celebration include Bat Conservation and Management, Inc.; Eastern Kentucky University; the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning; National Park Service; the Murray State University Wildlife and Fisheries Society; University of Kentucky; WKU; and many individual volunteers.

Note: Regarding white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats: While there are no known harmful effects to humans, WNS is responsible for the death of millions of hibernating bats across the eastern United States since its discovery in 2006. WNS was found in Mammoth Cave in winter 2012-13.

Contact: Vickie Carson, (270) 758-2192; or Shannon Trimboli, (270) 758-2422

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