Summary Report for 2008 Edna Bailey Sussman Internship Grant
To Study Summer Habitat Selection of the
Endangered Indiana Bat (Myotis sodalis) In Central New York:
Michael S. Fishman
Master’s Degree Candidate
S.U.N.Y. College of Environmental Science and Forestry
The purpose of this internship with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation was to conduct field work and data collection associated with characterizing habitat selection of the endangered species, Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), at an urban-rural interface in central New York. Current information on Indiana bat summer habitat selection at a landscape scale comes primarily from the Midwestern U.S. There are no published studies of Indiana bat summer habitat selection from central New York State, in the northeastern end of its range. Summer habitat selection information for Indiana bats in these areas is needed by state and federal wildlife agencies to determine potential impacts on this species from encroaching human development, and to implement effective recovery strategies for this species. This internship was intended to provide such data, which I planned to use for my Master’s thesis research in partial fulfillment of a Master of Science degree.
The work proposed for this internship included capture of up to 20 Indiana bats from private properties around the northwestern periphery of the City of Syracuse, NY between May 12 and August 15, 2008; attachment of a radio transmitter with a unique frequency and pulse rate to each captured bat; and radio tracking of each bat until 50 locations are obtained for each bat. Radio tracking was to be used to identify locations of day roosts for each bat, as well as foraging areas used by each bat at night. This location information will be plotted on a geographic information system (GIS) map layer to identify home ranges of individual bats and to compare their habitat use within their home range to available habitat within their potential flight range. This habitat compositional analysis will provide an index of habitat selection at a landscape scale. Distances of bat locations from landscape features such as streams, wetlands, roads, and forest edges will also be measured to identify landscape structural elements associated with Indiana bat summer habitat. All of these methods were tested and confirmed during the summer of 2007 in a pilot study conducted at the proposed study site.
During the period May 12 through August 15, 2008, I conducted mist netting and radio telemetry on Indiana bats at sites located around the northwestern end of Onondaga Lake in the Towns of Camillus, Geddes, Lysander, Salina, and Van Buren, in Onondaga County, New York. Bats were captured using 38 mm mesh nylon and polyester mist nets set between metal poles in probable travel corridors (across streams and across paths and roads through forested areas, particularly near water and wetlands). Captured bats were weighed using an Ohaus model PS121 digital scale, and had their forearms measured with calipers. In addition, at the request of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, we assessed each captured bat for wing damage from White Nose Syndrome, a fungal infection discovered in New York in 2006 that has resulted in significant declines in populations of some bat species, and which leaves tell-tale scarring on wings of survivors. Hair and tissue samples were collected from captured Indiana bats for submittal to the American Museum of Natural History for genetic and regional distribution data, and Holohil model LB-2n radio transmitters (Holohil Systems, Ltd, Carp, ONT, Canada) were affixed to the bats between their scapulae with Skin Bond brand ostomy adhesive (Smith Nephew, USA). Indiana bats were also wing-banded with metallic bands provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Tagged bats were then radio-tracked daily to identify their roost locations, and were also continuously tracked on selected nights to identify foraging and travel corridor areas, using Communications Specialists’ model R-1000 receivers (Communications Specialists, Orange, CA, USA) and 3-element Yagi antennae. Roost locations were identified to specific trees, the positions of which were determined using Garmin e-Trex Legend handheld global positioning systems (GPS)(Garmin, Olathe, KS, USA). Foraging locations were determined by fixed station telemetry in which three individuals (I and two other personnel) took fixes on each bat at regular time intervals, coordinated by handheld walkie-talkies. Foraging positions will be triangulated from these fixed station and bearing data using LOAS (Location of a Signal) v.4x software (Ecological Software Solutions, LLC, Florida, USA)
During the 2008 field season, we captured 56 bats of 6 species, including little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus; n=21), northern, or long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis; n=4), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis; n=12), big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus; n=16), tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus; n=1), and eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis; n=2). We were able to conduct roost tracking on 42 days and foraging tracking on 11 nights. Multiple bats were sometimes simultaneously radio tracked for roost and foraging locations. These data, pooled with data from a previous season of data collection and data provided by the NYSDEC, will provide a sample of roost and foraging locations for habitat analysis from more than 20 bats. Data analysis using geographic information systems (GIS) will commence this winter.
Information gathered during this work will be published in my Master’s thesis, and will be submitted for publication in peer reviewed journals. In addition, my findings will be reported at a variety of professional conferences, potentially including the annual meetings of The Wildlife Society and the Northeast Bat Working Group, as well as at the North American Symposium on Bat Research, and the Northeast Natural History Conference. Internship funding provided by the Edna Bailey Sussman Foundation will be publicly acknowledged in all of these forums.