So close, yet far away: San Juan Islands bats

The ten species that inhabit the islands primarily eat insects; some specialize on certain kinds (e.g., moths or beetles), whereas others are far less picky. Some species forage for insects out in the open, whereas others prefer to fly in cluttered habitats like the forest understory. 

Rochelle began researching the species compositions of San Juan, Orcas and Vendovi Islands last summer. Local land conservation organizations and residents invited Kelly to study the bats on their land. She captured and released over 140 individuals of eight species, from which she collected data for analyses of anatomy, diet, echolocation and population genetics.

Rochelle is applying modern genetic methods to investigate whether ecological traits influence the population genetic structure of San Juan Islands bat species. If ecologically specialized species are restricted in their ability to disperse across a fragmented landscape, then their populations will be more genetically isolated from one another. Kelly aims to identify whether and which characteristics of a bat species’ foraging habitat predict their vulnerability to habitat fragmentation, and thus provide a resource for land managers to develop conservation strategies for these important mammals.

Article Source: Burke Museum