Bats are a valuable taxonomic group because of their critical roles as pollinators and insect predators. North American bat populations have declined precipitously over the past few decades due to the combined effects of habitat loss and fragmentation, wind energy development and white-nose syndrome (WNS). While WNS and wind energy development result in mass mortality of bats, the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation, while less acute, have the potential to magnify the impacts of these mortality sources by reducing the quantity and quality of suitable habitat as well as landscape connectivity. Loss of connectivity can impede daily movements and seasonal migration and dispersal movements.
Effective conservation and management plans for bats need to integrate knowledge of species habitat requirements over multiple spatial scales. Such plans also need to explicitly consider the costs associated with moving through dynamic, highly modified landscapes in order to improve functional connectivity among critical areas (e.g., summer maternity roosts and winter hibernacula) and species persistence on the landscape. While bats face multiple threats, both acute and chronic, our ability to accurately quantify their effects is hindered by the lack of baseline data on bat populations in many areas, including Illinois.
Research in the Wildlife Ecology Lab includes basic species inventories, multi-scale assessments of bat habitat requirements for necessary life functions (e.g., foraging, commuting, maternity roosts) and evaluations of the interactive effects of threats from wind power development, WNS, and habitat fragmentation.