Following BRI's initial mercury studies on mink and river otters, the mammal program quickly expanded to incorporate studies of other aquatic dwelling animals and bats.
There are more than 1,400 known species of bats, comprising nearly a quarter of all mammal species. These unique creatures are at the center of some of today's most pressing ecological issues, such as white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungus, and mortality associated with wind turbines. BRI biologists, collaborating across several programs, are conducting studies to address these issues.
Mammals have evolved to exploit a large variety of ecological niches and life history strategies. Each species attains a state of harmony with its environment through gradual adaptations, modifications and evolution, and must adapt to continual changes. Humans have become capable of making profound and rapid alterations in the environment; the future survival of most species is becoming more and more dependent upon our actions.
BRI focuses its research efforts on meeting the conservation needs of some species of mammals, and using them as bioindicators to evaluate the health of individuals, populations, and ecosystems. Below, we have grouped our primary areas of research emphasis into three nonexclusive areas: (1) contaminants monitoring; (2) movement studies; and (3) surveys and population monitoring.
In the U.S., more than half of the bat species forage adjacent to waterways. Bats are also long-lived (up to 30 years for some) and have the potential to accumulate high levels of toxins over time.
Below is a selection of some representative mammal contaminants research projects:
Efforts to study the movements of mammals help us learn critical information about their behavior and ecology. Marking bats with unique wing bands is one of the most long-standing methods of studying bats. Traditional bands help us identify the banding origin of bats that are recovered or recaptured elsewhere.
Bats fitted with traditional radio transmitters are typically tracked within a relatively close range (several miles) by plane, vehicle, or on foot using a receiver. To date, BRI researchers have tracked a variety of bats including little brown, northern long-eared, Indiana, tri-color, big brown, gray, and eastern small-footed bats. Tracking these individual bats provides remarkable information that is valuable in a wide spectrum of research, management, conservation, and legislative decisions.
Below is a selection of some representative mammal tracking projects:
Habitat loss and fragmentation cause a variety of ecological impacts that trigger different responses in different mammal species. Conducting surveys or monitoring populations shows trends in species populations. Depending on the objective of the study, we use a variety of methods to survey and inventory a species. These inventories are important to understand how the mammals we study utilize the landscape we share with them.
Below is a selection of some representative mammal survey and monitoring research projects:
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