cover photo by Rob Schorr

The Collaboration

The Goals

Mission: To better understand and conserve bat populations by building connections with rock climbers, land managers, and biologists.

The goals of our project are simply to:
1.Improve knowledge of bat roost locations;
2.Develop relationships among climbers, biologists, and land managers;
3.Empower climbers as ambassadors for bat conservation; and
4.Develop a model collaboration that can be used for gaining data on bat crevice use.

Our History

Over beers or coffee, no one can recall, Bernadette Kuhn, avid climber and botanist for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program (CNHP) at Colorado State University (CSU), was discussing her climbing adventures with bat biologists Rob Schorr , also with CNHP. They had just spent a day rappeling into caves looking for colonies of bats and Bernadette suggested that climbers could be a good resource for finding bat roosts because they sometimes encounter bats during climbs.

Bernadette and Rob kept batting (pun intended) the idea around about developing a collaboration between climbers and bat biologists, when the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) at CSU announced funding to support novel partnerships like this one. Enlisting the aid of an expert practitioner in human dimensions and natural resources, Shawn Davis (then of the Human Dimensions in Natural Resources Department at Warner College of Natural Resources at CSU), they applied for and were awarded a SoGES Global Challenges Research Team in 2014.

Bernadette, Rob, and Shawn used the funding to coordinate meetings among climbers, bat biologists, and land managers from northern Colorado. In these meetings, the groups discussed the value of collaborating, the challenges and opportunities of collaborating, and how this initiative should grow. Thankfully, all participants were excited about the collaboration and the Climbers for Bat Conservation project was born.

The Importance of the Partnership

Bats are the second most diverse group of mammals, with over 1,000 species and approximately 45 of those are found in North America. Despite their abundance, we are still learning about their basic ecology and roosting requirements. It has long been recognized that some species roost in large numbers within caves and mines, and these populations have been easier to monitor than the others that may not roost in large colonies. Bat biologists would like to study those species and populations that don’t roost in large numbers in caves and mines, but finding them is a challenging.

General bat ecology is fascinating, and gaining a better understanding of these misunderstood animals would be invaluable for increasing appreciation for and interest in bats. However, there are more poignant reasons for studying the roosting requirements of these bats. Bats in North America have undergone precipitous declines recently because some species are attracted to wind energy sites and a new disease has decimated hibernating bats in eastern U.S. and Canada (for more details see “Threats to Bats” section of the CBC website).

The Climbers for Bat Conservation Project may be the next step to finding new populations of bats. This alone may help biologists learn more about bat roosting needs, the health and size of bat populations, and roosts that biologists should monitor to understand changes in bat populations.