Going Batty: New Baylor Study Takes In-Depth Look at Bat Colonies Around Waco

April 12, 2011

Study to document the human-made structures where bats are likely to roost

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With an estimated 10,000 Mexican Free-tailed bats living around the greater Waco area, a new Baylor University study will attempt to document where, exactly, the bats like to roost around the city and identify certain structures and variables that attract the bats in the first place.

"Bats likely do not just randomly pick a place to roost," said Dr. Ken Wilkins, professor of biology and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at Baylor, Graduate School. "There have been very few studies looking into how bats select human-made structures which to live. There is a perception that there will be population loss as humans encroach on some bat habitats, but perhaps the opposite is true for some species. Perhaps many human-made structures actually promote bat habitats and allow populations to thrive."

This is one of the first studies to look into the particular characteristics of human-made structures where bats are more likely to roost in Texas.

Wilkins, and Han Li, a Baylor doctoral student, will first map where the highest clusters of bats currently live around the greater Waco area and document certain characteristics about the bats, such as developmental stage and gender. The Baylor researchers will then study the bats over time and analyze building structures and the bat's colony strength. The researchers will study dozens of criteria, including the buildings' structural design, location, food source proximity and lighting, and will study similarities and differences.

"We will be fairly specific with this study in that we even drill down to if the bats prefer houses to apartments to overpasses, what is the socio economic status around the area and why the bats select one place over another," Li said. "Structural engineers could possibly use this information in designing new buildings. We know the basics about bats' home preferences and this will help further that knowledge because it will allow us to make some generalizations."

The study is expected to last about two years.

The researchers have asked for the public's help in notifying them of any bat colonies they may see.

Media contact: Frank Raczkiewicz, Assistant Vice President of Media Communications, 254-710-1964.