CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — There’s one creature you might not consider when visiting Fort Campbell and now it’s the focus of a new study: bats.
Flying around Fort Campbell in the wee hours of the night are tricolored and little brown bats.
Thanks to a new, 10-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Army, these creatures will be the focus of a new study at Austin Peay State University, led by Dr. Catherine Haase.
“So, we found that Fort Campbell actually had the highest population of tricolored bats in the state, so they essentially wanted to continue doing some survey and habitat relationship research, not just for tricolored, but a few other bat species that are declining,” Haase explained.
A grant that large and long is quite rare for this kind of research, Haase noted.
“The 10-year component is what’s really unique, and pretty amazing for our students,” Haase said, “and so it’s this great partnership with Fort Campbell and Austin Peay to provide Fort Campbell’s side of understanding what species they have there.”
What’s the backstory? This is the direct result of a previous study on bats and how white-nose syndrome is attributing to their deadly decline.
“Essentially, what happens is the fungus disrupts their hibernation behavior, it causes them to expend a lot of energy, they end up starving to death and have a really high mortality rates across eastern, middle, and western North America,” Haase said.
Students are tasked with determining if tricolored and little brown bats should be on the list of endangered species.
“We can do a lot of work understanding habitat relationships, and foraging behavior, and how things like forest management, so if they cut down trees or thin forests, how that impacts the bat movements,” noted Haase.
Through previous research, Haase and her cohorts have found these kinds of bats are all over Middle Tennessee.
“So overall, the big picture is trying to understand a lot of different components of the life cycle and the life histories of multiple bat species in the Southeast,” Haase said.
According to Haase, everyone should care about this research, especially those of drinking age.
“I always joke that if you like margaritas or tequila, you got to like bats because the agave plant is pollinated by bats,” laughed Haase, “so without bats, you wouldn’t have margaritas.”
Not to mention, this research proves to be a pivotal step in growing Austin Peay’s Biology Department for the next 10 years.