Going to Bat for Bats

photo of a batResearchers at Indiana University have launched a new study looking at the relationship between swimming pools and bats — that’s right, bats. Apparently there is growing concern among some in the scientific community that pools pose a threat to bats because they have been known to use pools as water source and can become trapped and drown.

Indiana State University senior biology major Zachary Nickerson from Columbus, Ind., and Joy O’Keefe, assistant professor of biology, want to find a solution to the problem. “There were many anecdotal reports of bats using swimming pools and even reports of bats drowning in swimming pools,” Nickerson says.

Together, Nickerson and O’Keefe have created an online survey (batsandpools.wordpress.com) to send across North America. With the help of colleagues, bat researchers and members of the pool industry, the survey has been sent to “anyone who owns, uses, manages or observes a swimming pool on a regular basis,” said O’Keefe.

Nickerson will leave the survey open until the end of the year, and wants to receive at least 1,000 responses. He will analyze the results of each geographic region. At the end of his research, he hopes to be able to answer questions such as what areas of the country see the most bats using swimming pools and how often bats are using swimming pools.

“We are simply trying to learn more about if bats are using swimming pools as well as how they are using them,” he says.

Protecting and preserving bats is very important to O’Keefe, who serves as both the director of Indiana State’s Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation as well as president of the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network.

She noted that bats, although often widely misunderstood, are an important part of our ecosystem, especially when it comes to regulating insect populations.

“Here in the Midwest bats are insectivorous, so they play a great role in removing insect pests from the skies, things that could prey on our crops, trees or us,” she says.

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