Why use climbers?

cover photo by climber Pat LaFree

Climbers know bats!
One of the first lessons this collaboration taught us is that climbers know bats. Because climbers get access to cracks and crevices where bats might roost, they are uniquely qualified to expand the understanding of bat roosting ecology. Climbers submit data regarding where and when they see bats using cracks and crevices. Also, if they can, they provide information about how many bats they see. This information can then be used by biologists to conduct follow-up visits and try to document how many bats use a crack or rock feature. 

“A strange thing about climbing in the dark is that all these creatures come out. Bugs, mice, bats, even frogs that live in the cracks”
Alex Honnold Alone on the Wall 2016

“we all share a spirit of adventure, curiosity, and a love of playing in a natural beautiful environment with our friends,”
Lynn Hill Climbing Free 2002

Why use climbers?
The idea to use climbers as partners in this collaboration was pretty simple. Bat biologists have a long history of studying bats in mines and caves, but they have struggled to understand bats that are using cracks and crevices. What group better understands rock cracks and crevices than rock climbers? When we tell people about the Climbers for Bat Conservation collaboration we typically get a “that’s cool” expression, followed shortly by a “well, duh” expression because it makes perfect sense to collaborate with climbers. We couldn’t be happier about partnering with climbers because few user groups have the appreciation for the unique and scenic value of the resource they use. Thank you to all the climbers who have participated in the project and submitted data. 

What are these data used for?
Bat biologists and land managers use bat sightings as a means of learning more about bat biology and bat resource use. Bat populations are declining in regions of North America (see the Threats to Bats section) and biologists need to learn more about bat roosting requirements if they want to conserve these populations. CBC is a novel attempt to gain that understanding because it sets the groundwork. It lets biologists know where bats are, and, for many years, that has been a struggle for biologists. If we are lucky, climbers may find large colonies of bats that biologists can study and monitor to understand how bats survive, reproduce, and hibernate in cracks.