Interests and doctoral research
My interests lie at the crossroads of community ecology and conservation biology, looking specifically at drivers of patterns and process of assemblage structure, with a focus on bats. For my doctoral research, I am investigating the drivers of bat species richness and assemblage structure along elevational gradients. Mountains are such fascinating landscape features that have inspired explorers and biologists for centuries, and they are centers of biodiversity, driving patterns of regional richness and playing a role in evolutionary dynamics. The bat fauna and indeed the richness pattern and drivers of such patterns on many mountains remain undocumented – including those in southeastern Nigeria in the Cameroon-Nigeria highlands. A species distribution model for bat species across Africa predicts that this area holds some of the highest species richness on the continent, making it a truly exciting place to work.
My doctoral field research is in two protected areas; Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary and Cross River National Park, in southeastern Nigeria, both rise to 1300 m and 1750 m elevation respectively. These are fold Mountains that form part of the Cameroon Volcanic Line and hold Nigeria’s last primary forest. There are numerous peaks on these mountains that are often forested from lowland to peak, providing opportunities for asking many interesting questions about bat assemblage structure. My preliminary results support the conclusions of a global meta-analysis reporting that climatic factors drive bat species richness patterns that were found to vary with wetness of mountain base. However, understanding the pattern of bat species richness provides only an initial step in investigating the structure of bat assemblages along elevational gradients. We know that resources are declining and that we lose species with elevation, but what is less understood is how the assemblage is structured along various trait dimensions under the influences of non-random processes. I am now using a trait-based approach to examine these structuring mechanisms. I have the first glimpses at some interesting results, some of which I have presented at local and international conference over the last couple of years. I am currently writing these exciting findings into manuscripts for publications in reputable international journals.
How I got into bat research
Although I have a long-standing interest in nature, my current interest in bats started in 2010 when I attended the Tropical Biology Association (TBA) field course in Kibale National Park, Uganda. During the course, I listened to an interesting talk on a bat pollination network in a West African rainforest – I was fascinated that curious scientists ventured into forests studying “enigmatic” animals, staying up all night, sometimes high up in the forest canopy, and this was all happening in my backyard! I wanted that experience! I was sold on bat research. Upon returning home to Nigeria, I didn’t waste time in visiting the large colony of Straw-colored fruit bats in Benin City. I took this interest forward by study bat diversity across three landscapes in southern Nigeria for a Masters thesis at the University of Benin, Benin City. My other experience with studying bats include conducting walked transect surveys for a Masters thesis at the University of Leeds to investigate the use of linear features like hedgerows by bats in agricultural landscapes.