BAT RESEARCH TEAM

Artibeus. Noctilio. Carollia. Glossophaga. Lophostoma. Phyllostomus. Uroderma.

Volunteering, Internships and Training Courses
* Contribute to wildlife conservation in the tropics *
Understanding the diversity, distribution, population dynamics and optimal conservation strategies for bats in Amazonian Peru

Team Objectives

Our Bat Research Team, which is headquartered in the city of Puerto Maldonado, is tasked with the following principle scientific and conservation objectives: (i) to establish baseline datasets of the diversity and abundance of over 115 species of bats at Amazonian field sites in the Madre de Dios region of Peru; (ii) to establish and build upon acoustic libraries of ultrasonic reference calls that will aid further acoustic monitoring and research programs; (iii) to monitor changes in the diversity, abundance and community structure of bats at these sites over time scales ranging from months to years and even decades; (iv) to compare and contrast sites in terms of bat diversity, abundance and community structure; (v) to understand and explain the differences and changes in bat communities within and between sites and over time (seasons, years, decades) with respect to environmental and anthropogenic variables such as climate (temperature, rainfall), forest type (terra-firme, floodplain), land-use categories (protected areas, indigenous or native community forest, ecotourism concessions, timber and non-timber extractive reserves, bushmeat hunting areas, and forests surrounded by or immediately adjacent to agricultural and cattle ranching areas), and underlying human-related disturbance as measured by distance from towns and villages, roads, and large navigable rivers; (vi) to identify bat populations or communities that are changing particularly rapidly and the likely underlying causes of this change; and ultimately (vii) to provide forest land owners and managers with information about the conservation status of the bat community in their forest; (viii) to educate the general public in Peru and worldwide about Neotropical bats; and ultimately (ix) to promote conservation actions at the species, site and landscape level that will help conserve the bats of Peru.

Methods Used

The primary bat sampling methods used under the supervision of our experienced bat research coordinators include understory mist-netting to a height of 3m, 10m “triple high” mist-nets used primarily to catch insectivorous species, static and active acoustic monitoring using automated and handheld bat detectors respectively, and roost site searches. In a typical week 4 to 6 nights are dedicated to understory mist-netting. On a standard evening of understory mist-netting 5 nets are deployed at regularly sampled and marked points along research trails approximately 75m apart. Nets are moved each day after a sampling session to reduce the risk of bias due to bats learning where the nets are placed. This netting continues on a rotation until all of the stations within a site have been sampled. Triple high mist-netting is opportunistically used to sample species which fly higher than the standard 3m understory nets. Finer “hair” nets are also used with these triple high nets to increase the chances of catching insectivorous species that may otherwise detect slightly thicker nets used to catch understory frugivorous bats. All bats caught in these nets are correctly identified to a species level using a dichotomous key when necessary. Each specimen caught has up to 11 morphometric categories of data collected along with assessments of their age and reproductive status. For some projects a DNA sample, such as a tail punch, will be collected from selected specimens. Selected insectivorous species will also have ultrasonic flight calls collected during their release or while enclosed in a temporary flight chamber. Active acoustic monitoring transects occur 1-3 nights per week, at the discretion of the team coordinator. Transects used by the general mammal team are walked at a steady and consistent pace while operating a handheld bat detector. Data is collected and later analyzed either at our field camp or in our offices in Puerto Maldonado or Cusco. Static detectors are used either singularly for the purpose of detecting presence or absence of detectable bat species within a research site or in a large array consisting of 10 or more units for the purpose of determining activity and relative abundance of detectable species. Static detectors must have their memory cards and batteries checked regularly and the data collected will be analyzed either in our field camp or at our offices in Puerto Maldonado or Cusco. Roost searches are conducted during the day at the discretion of the team coordinator. All potential roost features (PRFs) up to a safe height will be searched within a selected research plot. These features include fallen trees, crevices and holes within standing trees, termite mounds, large standing dead leaves and heliconia shoots. Information regarding habitat variables in the vicinity of net and acoustic sampling stations are collected using 0.05-ha Modified Gentry plots. All of the above data is used to assess diversity and relative abundance of species using standard analytical protocols, as well as occupancy modelling to predict species distributions and habitat suitability. Data analysis and visualisation programs that we use and teach include Kaleidoscope, R, SPSS, Distance, Mark, Estimates, Camera Base, and QGIS.

Lesser Bulldog Bat  (Noctilio albiventris)

Photo: Nils Bouillard

Lesser spear-nosed bat (Phyllostomus elongatus)

Photo: Lewis Hillier

Measuring the forearm-length of a bat

Photo: Hannah Beckley

Checking a bat's wing for wear and tear

Photo: Hannah Beckley

Flat-faced fruit-eating bat  (Artibeus planirostris) Photo: Hannah Beckley 

Summary of a Typical Day on the Team

Morning work normally begins after breakfast (8 am) and consists of data entry from the previous night along with the movement of mist-nets to their new locations for the upcoming evening session. After lunch (12:00pm) and a brief rest period, afternoon activities may include roost searches, collection of habitat data in and around sample stations using 0.05-ha Modified Gentry plots or acoustic data analysis. The evening mist-netting or active acoustic sampling sessions begin approximately 1 hour prior to sunset (5:30) so that our team can be in position to begin sampling slightly before bat activity begins. Mist-net and active acoustic monitoring sessions normally last between 3 to 4 hours. The team normally arrives back to camp between 10 to 11 pm and our cook will ensure there is a hot meal waiting for them upon their return. All research schedules and activities are subject to change at the discretion of the team coordinator.

Join the Bat Team!

Five ways to volunteer or intern with us

Although bats have been intermittently sampled in the Peruvian Amazon by Fauna Forever and other organisations, these studies have never been longer than a few months per se. That’s why in 2018, we began developing protocols that would allow us to establish a long-term bat population monitoring program, similar to the successful programs we already run that focus on birds, herpetofauna (amphibians and reptiles) and non-volant mammal species. We now operate the only long term, multi-site bat monitoring program in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon. We welcome volunteers, interns and thesis students to join us from across the world to assist us with our work - people who are interested in learning the field methods we use, assisting us with day-to-day bat research and conservation activities, or undertaking their own bat-focused dissertation projects with the help of our expertise and professional supervision. Opportunities to volunteer or intern with us are available for short or extended periods of time throughout the year in Peru and for people with a variety of research skill levels, financial constraints, and time considerations. Some volunteer and internship options are also free depending on the applicant, their proven level of experience, the season, and our discretionary scholarship funds. However, the majority of successful applicants are asked to pay a fee to help cover the cost of their stay with us, as our central project funding is limited. These fees cover all costs associated with the program, such as local transfers, food, lodging, and certain items of equipment that volunteers and interns use frequently. The fees do not cover personal expenses such as snacks, bottled beverages, clothes, rubber boots, toothpaste, medical expenses, etc.

Field Course Internship

This option is for those people interested in learning or improving research techniques and related field skills for studying bats in both tropical and temperate habitats. We offer Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced and Master-level course segments in bat netting, handling, acoustic monitoring, species identification, and datasheet and database management methods. Each course segment lasts two weeks, and interns can opt to combine several segments into a course that best suits their training needs with respect to bats. Each course segment is led by one or two bat experts, each with years of experience to share, and include both theoretical and practical classes. Participants who successfully complete the full course (i.e. all four segments, Beginner to Master, lasting 8 weeks) or the three most advanced segments (i.e. Intermediate to Master, 6 weeks) can gain direct access to the Skilled Research Internship program going forward, as their level of expertise will have reached a sufficiently high level that would be able to assist the bat team coordinators with all aspects of their work in a professional and semi-independent manner. Fees apply for each course segment. For general background information about the Field Course Internship Program, please click here

 

NOTE: All Bat Field Course Interns must have an up-to-date rabies vaccination before arriving at our field station in Peru.

Spix's disc-winged bat (Thyroptera tricolor) roosting in a Heliconia leaf

Photo: Nils Bouillard

MacConnell's bat (Mesophylla macconnelli) Photo: Nils Bouillard

White-throated round-eared bat (Lophostoma silvicolum)

Photo: Nils Bouillard

Field Course Intern - Ellie Hack - measuring a bat. Photo: Bat Team

Nils Bouillard measuring a Sturnira tildae. Photo: Nils Bouillard

Field Course Intern - Ellie Hack - extracting a bat from a mist net. Photo: Bat Team

Greater sac-winged bat (Saccopteryx bilineata)

Photo: Nils Bouillard

Enlarged teat of nursing Artibius sp.

Photo: Lewis Hillier

5. Course Segment Combinations - Neotropical Bird Research

Beginner + Intermediate (4 weeks)

Intermediate + Advanced (4 weeks) 

Advanced + Master (4 weeks) 

Beginner + Intermediate + Advanced (6 weeks) 

Intermediate + Advanced + Master (6 weeks) 

Beginner + Intermediate + Advanced + Master (8 weeks) 

US$ 1,890 *

US$ 1,890 *

US$ 1,890 *

US$ 2,460 *

US$ 2,460 *

US$ 3,025 *

* Course fees in each case are per person and include (i) Puerto Maldonado airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); (vi) personalised training in the techniques and skills for each course (theoretical and practical); (vii) opportunities to accompany the bird team during all research activities; and (viii) non-research birding trips (walking and boat-based excursions) to observe and learn about as many of the local bat species as possible. The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolates, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi) un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room.

4. Master Course Segment - Neotropical Bat Research

Duration: 2 weeks

Description: Participants will learn all of the key components and skills taught in earlier courses (see above) but will attain a higher degree of professionalism and should be able to independently undertake all aspects of our bat research protocols with only very little supervision from our bat team coordinators (with supervision focused only on health and safety, bat identification, and data entry and checking processes). This course will also include a formal evaluation of theoretical knowledge and practical skills towards the end of the segment. Thus, participants who successfully complete this course will possess the skills necessary to be able to establish and develop their own bat population monitoring projects in a variety of environments around the world. 

Certificate: Yes.

Fee: US$ 1,040 *

3. Advanced Course Segment - Neotropical Bat Research

Duration: 2 weeks

Description: Participants will learn (i) to independently establish a new net lane consisting of one 9 or 12-m long mist net in a tropical forest environment, with little supervision; (ii) to erect a 10m triple high mist-net station with little supervision; (iii) to safely extract all sizes of bats from mist nets using multiple extraction methods, including safely bagging the individuals for later processing, with little supervision; (iv) to record all categories of morphological data, including advanced categories such as ear length, noseleaf length and calcar length; (v) to identify bats in the hand using all available literature and dichotomous keys to an accuracy of 90%; (vi) to establish a stationary acoustic monitoring station with little supervision; (vii) to perform active acoustic transect surveys using handheld bat detectors with with little supervision; (viii) to identify recorded bat calls with an accuracy of 75%; (ix) to enter data about each bat specimen and acoustic recording data into our laptop computers, with only limited supervision, including data review techniques to catch errors and increase quality of the dataset; and (x) collect data relating to habitat variables in and around each sample station (i.e. vegetation plots), with limited supervision. 

Certificate: Yes.

Fee: US$ 1,040 *

2. Intermediate Course Segment - Neotropical Bat Research

Duration: 2 weeks

Description: Participants will learn (i) to establish a new net lane consisting of one 9 or 12-m long mist net in a tropical forest environment, with supervision from our bat team coordinators; (ii) to safely erect a 10m triple high mist-net station; (iii) to safely extract all sizes of bats from mist nets using multiple extraction methods, including safely bagging the individuals for later processing, with professional over-the-shoulder supervision at all times; (iv) to record most categories of morphological data, including forearm length, tibia length, thumb length, hair length and weight, with help provided where necessary; (v) to identify bats in the hand using all available literature and dichotomous keys to an accuracy of 75%; (vi) to establish a stationary acoustic monitoring station with supervision; (vii) to perform active acoustic transect surveys using a handheld bat detector; (viii) to identify recorded bat calls to an accuracy of 50%; (ix) to enter data about each bat specimen along with acoustic recording data into our laptop computers, under close supervision, including data review techniques to catch errors and increase quality of the dataset; and (x) the theory and practise behind the habitat variables that we collect in and around each sample station (i.e. vegetation plots), including techniques to analyse this data. 

Certificate: Yes.

Fee: US$ 1,040 *

1. Beginner Course Segment - Neotropical Bat Research

Duration: 2 weeks

Description: Participants will learn (i) the basics of how to prepare a mist net lane in the forest and how to open, close and safely store mist nets; (ii) the basics of how to prepare a 10m triple high mist-net for the purpose of catching high flying insectivorous species; (iii) to handle bats in a safe and ethical manner; (iv) the theory behind using mist-netting to obtain relevant population and community structure data ; (v) the theory behind effectively determining age, sex and reproductive status of bats in the hand; (vi) to identify bats in the hand using relevant literature and dichotomous keys; (vii) the theory behind various extraction methods to get bats out of a net (pros and cons); (viii) the details of the morphological measurements that we collect and will actively take simple measurements from a selection of medium sized bat species held in the hand while closely supervised by the trainer; (ix) the theory behind using static and active acoustic sampling mehtods to determine relevant population and community structure data; (x) the theory behind identifying acoustic calls using relevant literature, dichotomous keys and reference calls; and (xi) the theory and practise behind the habitat variables that we collect in and around each sample station (i.e. vegetation plots).

Certificate: Yes.

Fee: US$ 1,040 *

Skilled Research Internship

​If you already possess advanced fieldwork skills that would be directly useful to the bat research team, without requiring specific training in mist-netting, bat handling and extraction, and acoustic survey techniques, and you have at least 2 weeks to dedicate to the team, then this option is for you. Skilled Research interns assist us with all aspects of the field research protocols and work alongside the team coordinators ensuring bats are sampled safely and that high levels of data quality are maintained. Such interns require very little direct supervision from our coordinators, and can accomplish most tasks on their own if required. Participants who complete the Master Course on Bat Mist-Netting and Acoustic Sampling (see below) are also regarded as Skilled Research Interns. During the application process, applicants for Skilled Research Intern positions will be required to send us a CV, reference letters and copies of any documentation that can back up their level of experience (e.g. banding license, certificate from a specialised course). More information about the Skilled Research Internship Program can be found here.

 

Fee: US$ 0-55 per night

(depending on experience, length of stay,

season and available scholarship funding)

 

Fees (if applicable) are per person and include (i) airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); (vi) opportunities to accompany all bird research activities as part of the bird team; and (vii) non-research birding trips (walking and boat-based excursions to observe as many local bird species as possible). The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolate, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi)  un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room and if the person requires specific training to bring them up to the standard required (see courses below).

Greater sac-winged bat (Saccopteryx bilineata)

Photo: Hannah Beckley

Stripe-headed round-eared bat (Tonatia saurophila). Photo: Bat Team

Thesis Project Internship

If you are a student looking to undertake an official thesis or dissertation project on Neotropical bats in the Peruvian Amazon and would like to benefit from our expertise and know-how, then this option is for you. We are able to help guide students along the path from project design, implementation and data analysis, with close supervision provided by our team of research coordinators and PhD-level scientists. We have even identified some potential research questions that could be developed into thesis projects, although we are also open to ideas and questions from student applicants. Undergraduate level projects should ideally be planned to be undertaken over a minimum 6-week period. Any shorter and there is no guarantee, in our experience, that sufficient quality data would be collected. Our management team can also provide official supervision and reporting as may be required by colleges and universities. More about Thesis Project Internship Program here.

Certificate: Yes.

Fee:      6 weeks    =  US$ 2,460 

             8 weeks    =  US$ 3,025

           12 weeks    =  US$ 4,150

Fees are per person and include (i) airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); (vi) assistance and supervision during the planning and execution of the project, including any personalised field training required; (vii) opportunities to accompany the bird team during all research activities; and (viii) opportunities to accompany the team on non-research birding trips (walking and boat-based excursions) to observe and learn about as many of the local bird species as possible. The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolates, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi) un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room.

The sac above the forearm of a male Greater sac-winged bat (Saccopteryx bilineata). 

Photo: Bat Team

Checking join ossification to determine a bat's age 

Photo: Bat Team

Citizen Science Volunteer

If you are passionate about wildlife and nature conservation and want to get involved with our bat research and conservation activities in a Peruvian rainforest setting, but you do not have much time (i.e. only days, rather than weeks or months), then this is the volunteering option for you. Citizen science volunteers can accompany the bat team on all of its outings and can witness first hand how mist nets are set up; how bats are extracted from nets; how bats are safely handled, weighed, measured, and subsequently released; how acoustic surveys are conducted; and how we manage and analyse the data we collect. There will also be opportunities to join other research teams and visit other sites including potentially a visit to a canopy platform. Learn more about the Citizen Science Volunteer Program here

 

Fees:   

3 days 2 nights    =  US$   460

5 days 4 nights    =  US$   680

7 days 6 nights    =  US$   840

10 days 9 nights  =  US$   990

Fees are per person and include (i) airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); (vi) opportunities to accompany all bird research activities as part of the bird team; and (vii) non-research birding trips (walking and boat-based excursions to observe as many local bird species as possible). The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolate, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi)  un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room.

A Citizen Science Volunteer from Chile helping to carry mist nets to a new location, through a section of flooded forest. Photo: Chris Kirkby

Camp Volunteer

If you are passionate about nature and conservation, yet you lack any specific wildlife research skills but would still like to contribute as much as possible to our fieldwork without having to invest in an intensive field methods course, then becoming a camp volunteer may be for you. Some bat-related activities (approximately 10% of your time) should be expected, but your time will also be taken up with assisting any Fauna Forever staff member with virtually any task, including perhaps helping out in the kitchen, pumping water, fetching and carrying supplies to and from the boat, tree planting, tending to any fruit crops, trail clearing, trail signage making, general equipment maintenance tasks, showing new volunteer and intern recruits around the field site, and so forth.  More about Camp Volunteer Program here.

Fee: US$ 0-45 per night

Fees (if applicable) are per person and include (i) airport pick-up and drop off; (ii) transfers to and from the active field site using cars and boats; (iii) accommodation at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado if necessary (shared rooms); (iv) main meals at field sites and in Puerto Maldonado (vegetarian options are available); (v) research permits (if the site requires them); and (vi) opportunities to accompany research activities when requested by the team coordinators. The fee does not include (i) flights; (ii) travel and health insurance; (iii) personal expenses like between-meal snacks (chocolate, biscuits, etc.) and bottled beverages; (iv) medical expenses; (v) laundry costs (research station or lodge staff can be paid to wash clothes); (vi)  un-scheduled transport between the active field site and Puerto Maldonado; (vii) wifi or internet access at sites where this is available. Note: Extra fees may be applicable for a private room.

A Camp Volunteer modelling cold-weather clothing and a machete. Photo: Chris Kirkby

 
 
 
 
 

Bat research coordinator (Chris Ketola) talking about the program.

Video: Wild Hope Collective

The slow-motion release of a MacConnell's (Mesophylla macconnelli) bat

in Tambopata, Peru (Video: Chris Ketola)

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