A master’s student at Memorial University’s Grenfell Campus is trying to see if there’s a connection between moose populations and the feeding habits of bats in Newfoundland.

‘They’re actually important animals that I think deserve a little more respect.’
– Darian Washinger, bat researcher

Darrian Washinger, originally from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, recently started her research in Gros Morne National Park.

She’s set up acoustic monitors in four different habitats to measure echolocation — the way bats use the echo from their calls to navigate in the dark.

Darrian Washinger bat

Darrian Washinger, a student studying boreal ecosystem and agricultural sciences at MUN’s Grenfell Campus, is overseeing the research in Gros Morne and hopes to have some data in several weeks. (Submitted by Darrian Washinger)

Through her research, Washinger is trying to figure out if areas of forest that have been cleared by hungry moose, called moose meadows, are more or less attractive to bats hunting for insects.

“We’re trying to see exactly how these moose impact the insects’ species and diversity, which will then control where the bats are going because they’re going to the places where they can find the most insects,” she told CBC Radio’s Central Morning Show.

“We are hoping to see a trend between the species that prefer these open canopies as opposed to clutter specialists [those that prefer foraging in forested areas].”

In addition to the acoustic monitors, Washinger has also set up light traps to measure the number of insects in a particular area.

Light trap and audio sensor

Light traps (left) will be used to attract and measure the amount of insects in a particular area of the forest, while ultrasonic microphones (right) will record the echolocation calls of bats to determine where they are congregating. (Submitted by Darrian Washinger)

As a single bat can eat up to 50 per cent of its body weight in insects per night, having a better idea of what areas they prefer could help with insect control, as the flying mammals are a fantastic natural method of keeping down the number of creepy crawlies.

“Bats are pretty particular with their habitat, especially their foraging habitat,” Washinger said. “They’re looking for the place where they can find the most amount of insects.”

Application for pest control

As she just started collecting data, it remains to be seen what impact the moose are having on the bats — and subsequently what impact the bats are having on the insects.

Washinger hopes that results can be used to help people appreciate bats as a form of pest control.

“They’re actually important animals that I think deserve a little more respect,” she said.

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