Ashraf’s First Field Season Yields ~550 Bats and ~17 Species!

Research assistants (Left to right – Tania Akhter and Rifat Hasan) in the field collecting tissue and fecal samples.

Ashraf just finished his long waited first season of fieldwork this Summer 2022 in Bangladesh. The field season started with a Seminar as Dr. Tigga Kingston was invited to speak at the Jagannath University, Dhaka, Bangladesh as keynote speaker. Dr. Kingston’s talk was entitled “Diversity and Conservation of Bats in Paleotropics”. A further talk was given by Ashraf on the human dimension of bats and current bat research in Bangladesh, and the project “Bats of Bangladesh: Bat Assemblage Structure and Species Responses to Land-use Change” he was undertaking. Later, Dr. Kingston visited Ashraf’s field site to see if the study design was feasible and build bat research capacity. As part of the capacity building, Ashraf, and his team (4 students) received hands-on training on complementary field methods such as harp traps, mist nets, and acoustics to capture and record bats. They also got training on collecting morphometric data of bats and taxonomy.

In this season, Ashraf worked in three protected areas of Bangladesh. He and his team caught ~550 bats and ~17 species!  The project was funded by the Rufford Foundation, Bat Conservation International, Michelle C. Knapp Memorial Scholarship, and obviously, the equipment support was provided by the Kingston Lab.

Postdoctoral Researcher on Bat Microbiomes

The labs of Tigga Kingston and Caleb Phillips at Texas Tech University are seeking to fill a post-doc position as part of the National Science Foundation-supported project “Community processes structuring assembly and disassembly of bat gut-microbial communities across a gradient of habitat degradation”. This project integrates bat genetics, molecular dietary analysis, and microbiome data from forest interior insectivorous bats sampled across a habitat degradation gradient in Malaysia with the objective of quantifying processes and relationships shaping microbiome communities. As such, the successful applicant with have expertise and enthusiasm for the integration of omics data and ecology.  The position will be funded for one year with a possible second year depending on performance. The position is open to applicants wishing to relocate to Lubbock, Texas, as well as to those preferring to work remotely within the United States.  Application packages should include CV, contact information for three references, Research Statement, and three examples of the applicant’s published work.  Please submit applications to caleb.phillips@ttu.edu with the subject line “Microbiome Assembly Postdoc”.

The Kingston Lab at IBRC 2022 and the first ever GBatNet research meeting

The first weeks of August were a busy time for the lab. First, we helped plan and run the first ever Global Union of Bat Diversity Networks (GBatNet) in-person research meeting. Held in Austin, TX, USA, this meeting brought together 67 researchers from 25 countries and research areas ranging from applied conservation to genomics to disease and many more! Together, we identified 15 interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research projects that will forward GBatNet’s mission to understand and protect bat diversity in a changing world.

We then ran across town to co-hoast the 19th International Bat Research Conference. In addition to helping run the conference, Tigga presented her talk on GBatNet’s history and mission, Abby her talk “Bat Meat: Preference or Necessity? The Role of Protein
Limitation in Driving Bat-Hunting”, and Adrienne her’s entitled “A Seasonal Comparison of Foraging Movements of Pteropus alecto From an Urban and Peri-urban Roost”. Touseef presented his poster “The Role of Heat Stressed Indian Flying Foxes in Propagation of Antimicrobial Resistance in the Environment”, and recent Texas Tech undergraduate Elaine Tackett gave her first in-person poster “Global Medicinal Use of Bats: A Systematic Literature and Social Media Review“. As if that wasn’t enough, everyone contributed to running the GBatNet’s Wednesday research and recruitment workshop, attended by over 150 people.

As if that wasn’t enough, everyone contributed to running the GBatNet’s Wednesday research and recruitment workshop, attended by over 150 people.

In addition, Kingston Lab alums were well represented throughout the conference. Recent graduate Iroro Tanshi gave an early career plenary on ” Harnessing Local Capacity to Uncover and Protect Hidden Afrotropical Bat Diversity, Nurul Ain Elias and Kendra Phelps both co-chaired sessions and presented talks, and Juliana Senawi presented her work “The Distribution and Conservation of Island Bats in Langkawi Archipelago of Malaysia.”

It was an exhausting and exhilarating time filled with old friends and new ideas.

Baobabs and bats – new publication on the influence of the landscape and plant traits on fruiting success

Baobab (Adansonia digitata) trees are iconic symbols of the arid lands of continental Africa, and aside from some populations in Southern Africa are largely dependent on fruit bats for pollination. However, the bats visit a diversity of plant species to meet their energetic and nutritional needs, so the pollination service they provide the baobabs may be influenced by the landscape context of individual trees. In collaboration with Dr Paul Webala, Macy Krishnamoorthy set out to determine the relative contribution of individual plant traits, namely tree height and girth, and landscape features and context (e.g., the distance of baobab trees to conspecifics, distances to resources that might attract or distract bats, land use) to baobab reproductive success. Very ably assisted by Mr Michael Bartonjo, she mapped more than 700 baobab trees in ~10 km2 area in Kenya, measured them, and derived a number of landscape variables for each tree. She counted the number of fruit per baobab as a measure of reproductive success.

A mighty baobab with Paul Webala’s magic field bus beneath it for scale

So what did she find? Perhaps not surprisingly, larger trees were more likely to produce fruit and produce more fruit, but landscape variables also played a role, but in a complex and scale-dependent way. The importance of distance to and density of alternate food resources changed with scale, but generally, pawpaws tended to act as attractants whereas figs distracted bats from their role as pollinators.

Eopmorphorus wahlbergi – one of the fruit bat species known to pollinate baobabs

You can read the full story here:

Krishnamoorthy, M.A., Webala, P.W. & Kingston, T. Baobab fruiting is driven by scale-dependent mediation of plant size and landscape features. Landsc Ecol (2022).

Macy in a baobab tree! Baobab trees can live for well over 1000 years and reach up to 5 m in diameter at breast height, so they make for good climbing.

Fieldwork was fun but arduous and there are many people in Kenya to thank! A special thank you to Macy’s local host Daniel Ngei and his family, the local chief Joseph Kavui and all the landowners in the villages of Kaai, Kalesi, Kaluku South, Kandundu, Katithini, Kavui, Kawula, Kiwaani, Mutoleka, Ngieni East, Ngieni West and Yungamaduu who generously allowed us to sample baobabs or others fruiting trees on their lands. Funding for the project came from Bat Conservation Internationa, the Association of Biologists at Texas Tech University, and the Department of Biological Sciences at TTU.

Bats love the baobab flowers, but the fruits are quite a local snack for people. Here they have been dyed green to be sold for $0.05 a bag.

Another New Publication!

Tigga, Abby, and Elaine are authors in “Global Medicinal Use of Bats: A Systematic Literature and Social Media Review” that was published in Diversity. This paper quantifies the various uses of bats, such as for food or medicine, around the world by their IUCN regions. It was determined that, “Consumption for food was prevalent in regions of Asia, Africa, and Oceania, whereas medicinal use was most commonly reported in South Asia (where it exceeded consumption for food), Southeast Asia, and to a lesser extent, Africa and South America.” The paper also quantifies the various aliments that are treated with bats.

The global distribution type and quality of ailment treated by bat divided into IUCN regions and subregions.

New Paper: A machine learning framework to classify Southeast Asian echolocating bats

The publications keep coming! Tigga and Joe are co-authors on “A machine learning framework to classify Southeast Asian echolocating bats” that just came out in Ecological Indicators. This paper has all you can ask for, if what you’re asking for is using machine learning to classify bat calls in Southeast Asia. Field rats take note: “Our framework allows users to rapidly filter acoustic files for common species and isolate files of interest, cutting the total volume of data to be processed by 86%.” Not only a time saver, but this increases the capacity of researchers to use non-invasive sampling in regions without species-specific call records and can detect species that are often missed when employing other sampling methods.

The four call types used in the Borneo bat classifier and representation of bat ensembles in Borneo, their corresponding call types, and species/sonotypes used to train the bat call classifier.

Ten New Bat Records from Nigeria!

Iroro, Ben, and Tigga recently published ten new species-level bat records from Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park in southeastern Nigeria. These new records are especially exciting because Nigeria is both under-sampled and a biodiversity hotspot! Check out the full publication “Hidden Afrotropical Bat Diversity in Nigeria: Ten New Country Records from a Biodiversity Hotspot

Left: Portraits of 34 bats captured during the field survey at Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park. M. torquata (e), R. hillorum (j), H. curtus (n), M. inflatus (x), G. cf. humeralis (aa), G. egeria (cc), K. cuprosa (dd), K. phalaena (ff), and N. eisentrauti (hh) are all new country records.

ChiroVox online public call library and accompanying PeerJ publication are live!

ChiroVox, the home of bat recordings from all over the world!

Tigga, along with Former lab members Joe Chun-Chia Huang and Juliana Senawi, recently co-authored “ChiroVox: a public library of bat calls” in PeerJ. The paper was timed to coincide with the launch of www.chirovox.org online bat call library. The library contains calls from across three cotenants and welcomes quality call contributions to help grow this valuable community resource.

Congratulations Dr. Tanshi!

Iroro in action!

A huge congratulations to Iroro on successfully defending her PhD dissertation last Wednesday! Her dissertation title is “Drivers of Diversity Patterns and Ensemble Structure of Forest Understory Insectivorous Bats Along Elevation Gradients in an Afrotropical Biodiversity Hotspot”. Thank you to everyone who has helped Iroro!