Grapevine-Colleyville ISD students participate in local environmental science program studying bats

Editor's note: Information provided to Community Impact Newspaper regarding class times was incorrect. Students meet each week, and the article has been updated.

Grapevine-Colleyville ISD high school students recently began participating in the Texas Christian University Bat Monitoring Program for the second year.

Coordinated by the Grapevine Parks and Recreation Department, this initiative helps students experience field research and college-level learning as they study the ecosystem, according to a March 20 news release.

“Protecting wildlife in our parks is part of our mission,” said Betsy Marsh, environmental education coordinator for Grapevine parks and recreation, in the news release. “We were thrilled when TCU Professor Dr. Victoria Bennett agreed to extend her research to Grapevine.”

Bats produce high-frequency vocalizations that are inaudible to human ears, according to the TCU Bat Monitoring Program website. Ultrasonic detectors are used to help record bat activity. They can pick up the vocalizations of bats within 10 meters and record the number of times these are detected.

In the program, participants walk 1-kilometer stretches of paved trails or roads in local parks from March to November, according to TCU. Each walk begins at dusk and continues for an hour, when the bats are most active.

As part of last year’s program, students met weekly at sunset to walk a designated route in Parr Park, using detectors for data collection.

“The students will walk the same designated route that they used the year before and collect data using the same ultrasonic bat detectors,” said Amanda Rodriguez, Grapevine parks and recreation marketing manager, in an email. “This will allow researchers to directly compare the data from year to year and identify changes in bat activity.”

Data collected in 2018 indicate Parr Park is a well-suited habitat for a diverse bat population, according to the news release. Research suggests six of the seven species of Texas bats visit or inhabit Parr Park throughout the year, which may be beneficial to area residents.

“Bats are critical to our surrounding environment, providing numerous beneficial ecosystem services that help us out and save us money,” Bennett said in the news release. “They are natural pest controllers and in urban environments they can control the mosquitoes that cause the West Nile and Zika viruses.”

However, the animals face several threats, including a new fungal disease and the loss and degradation of their habitat, Bennett said in the news release.

“We need to show everyone bats aren’t bad as we are led to believe and get people involved in helping us monitor them,” she said in the news release.

Grapevine parks and recreation and TCU will host BatBlitz, an educational event, on April 26. Participants will learn to use bat detectors and see researchers attempt to net a live bat. The event runs from 7:30-9 p.m. at Parr Park.
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