Be a volunteer scientist and help microbats

By Anna O'Brien 7 November 2013
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Here’s your chance to play scientist for a night and help microbat research.

IF YOU’VE EVER WANTED to be a scientist, here’s your chance. Biologists are calling on Melbourne citizens to help trap microbats for an evening in the name of conservation.

Earthwatch, a non-for-profit organisation, are providing an opportunity to spend the night on Friday 5 November at the Royal Botanic Gardens with Melbourne’s microbats research team to help discover more about the tiny creatures.

Richard Gilmore, Earthwatch executive director says that little is known about Melbourne’s microbats. “As we don’t know much about them, large amounts of data are required,” he says. “However we simply do not have the manpower. There are 12 current citizen projects in Australia and over 70 in the world. They have all been integral in helping scientists gather information.”
“With the help of Melbourne’s people, we will be able to gain a greater understanding on the life cycle of the microbat,” he says.

Unlike fruit bats, microbats go largely unnoticed due to their quiet, nocturnal habits. “They are smaller than a few grams, with the larger ones weighing as little as 20 grams,” says Dr Rodney Van Der Ree, and ecologist from Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne. “They are extremely important in summer when insects, particularly mosquitoes, are very abundant.”

This year they will be investigating female microbats, their breeding behaviours, reproduction, survival rates of babies, birth rates, death rates and roosting locations, Rodney says.

“The public will assist by setting up traps the night before, sleeping over under the stars, then checking the traps at dawn. We will be weighing and measuring each microbat we find, then letting them go.”

“This really is a unique experience,” says Richard. “It is not often that the public gets to be a real scientist for a night.”

To join a Melbourne Microbat’s team for an evening visit Earthwatch or call (03) 9682 6828. No experience is necessary as training is provided on the night.