Bats are remarkable creatures with diverse behaviors and adaptations that make them essential to many ecosystems around the world.
Carly Trujillo and Aleana Savage, students in Dr. Giorgia Auteri’s lab at Missouri State University, recently won awards for their bats research at the North American Society for Bat Research Symposium in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Judging criteria for each presentation focused on overall quality of research, presentation and delivery of the 15-minute talk or discussion of the poster. The awards came with a certificate, $500 and lots of applause.
A wildlife biology student from Layton, Utah, Trujillo presented a poster of her research at the conference titled, “Impact of biopsy size and bat species on DNA yields.”
“My project looks at how much tissue is required from bats to reach specific concentration requirements for different genetic sequencing requirements,” she said. “It can be hard to know how little tissue we can take and still get the genetic information we need.”
The goal of Trujillo’s project is to clarify these tissue requirements for future field and lab biologists.
Typically, collecting bat tissue for research is done by taking a small biopsy from the wing or tail membrane. Trujillo compares this to an ear piercing, allowing the bat to fly away right after the procedure.
“We used bats that were found dead to find out how little this biopsy can be, the best area on the membrane to take the biopsy and how the bat species matters,” she said. “We found that DNA yield is influenced by the bat species, the location in which a biopsy is taken and the quality of the tissue.”
Trujillo’s win as an undergraduate student meant a lot to her.
“This award was based on the quality of the research and presentation, including both delivery of the information and the visual representation of the information on the poster,” she said. “It was so exciting to win this award for all the people who have contributed time and effort to this project.”
She left the conference with much insight and motivation.
“I got to hear from people from different backgrounds who have all found an interest in and appreciation for bats,” Trujillo said. “This event allowed all these people to come together and learn from each other, which is so important in pushing science forward.”
Trujillo is advised by Auteri, assistant professor of biology.
“I can’t believe how much Carly has grown as a scientist — it’s been less than a year since she joined my lab, and now she’s winning awards for her work at international conferences,” Auteri said. “She has been a very hard worker, a careful thinker and a supporter of her labmates. She’s also open to new experiences.”
A biology master’s student from Beloit, Wisconsin, Savage presented her project titled, “Tolerance to urban light and sound drive novel habitat colonization in gray bats.” This focuses on a possible difference in behavior between bats in urban areas and bats in wilderness habitats.
“Using a standard behavioral assay, we’re seeing if urban bats respond differently to anthropogenic type stimulus, such as light and sound,” Savage said. “So far, we’ve found that adult bats in the urban type roosts are potentially bolder than wild bats when approaching light. We are still analyzing some of the data, but we’re hoping our results will help us better understand why some wildlife are successful in typically stressful environments, like cities.”
Her project involved a massive field data collection effort spanning four seasons, multiple species of bats and 14 collection sites.
“Working with bats in the wild to collect data takes a lot of teamwork and my data collection was particularly intensive with additional set up. We use a very exact process that the whole lab had to learn,” Savage said. “I’m grateful for everyone who helped with data collection.”
Her award came as a surprise to her, but she’s grateful to be able to see other impactful research.
“All of the presenters were amazing and had some very interesting projects,” Savage said. “I loved meeting so many people who are just as passionate about bats as I am! It was great to meet people who I’ve connected with over social media or read publications from.”
Savage is also advised by Auteri.
“Aleana already had a lot of knowledge about the bats we study and how to work with them, and she’s only grown in her expertise since then,” Auteri said. “I’ve been impressed by her ability to push herself, work independently and coordinate a team of people to collect data for her research.”