Wild in the City: Chicagoland's Urban Ecology

Bat Monitoring

Illinois is known to be home to eight different bat species, but many locals are unaware of the nocturnal flying mammals inhabiting Chicago’s urban landscape. Although they are often met with fear when encountered by humans, bats are key players in the ecosystem; a single bat can consume up to one thousand mosquitoes in an hour, a talent most Chicagoans can appreciate. In 2011, when “white-nose syndrome,” a deadly and highly-contagious fungal disease, was detected in bat populations in neighboring Indiana, local scientists intensified their studies of Chicago’s bats. Unlike the movements of terrestrial mammals, the bats’ high-flying acrobatics are not likely to be caught using a camera trap. UWI chose a more species-appropriate tactic to gather information on Chicagoland bat populations: acoustic monitoring. To this end, UWI installed recording devices near Lincoln Park Zoo, radiating outward through Chicago, and into the suburbs. Using this non-invasive technique, UWI scientists have confirmed the presence of seven species of bats in the Chicago area by analyzing their distinctive vocalizations. 

While acoustic monitoring allowed researchers to differentiate between the calls of big brown bats, eastern red bats, silver-haired bats, and hoary bats, it was not as helpful at estimating population numbers or locations. To tackle this challenge, UWI again turned to citizen scientists to contribute key data. By reporting sightings and photos of bats to batsignal@lpzoo.org, local citizen scientists have helped identify the locations where local bat populations congregate, focusing UWI’s efforts and aiding research into the health of these elusive urban insectivores.

Use the cards at the bottom of each page to explore various parts of the "A Century of Citizen Science in Lincoln Park" chapter. There will always be a card to take you back to the chapter introduction or you can go back to the Wild in the City overview.

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