Small mammals and bats are integral components of food webs. They are a primary food source for many predators and serve ecological functions such as seed dispersal and nutrient cycling. However, they receive less attention than game species and other managed species, leading to a lack of comprehensive information on their ecology and conservation status. In Alaska, this lack of information is exacerbated by the challenges associated with accessing remote field locations and the difficulty in capturing and observing rare and elusive species. More than 80 small mammal taxa have been described in Alaska, of which more than half (43 taxa) are listed as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Many of these taxa depend on tundra or alpine ecosystems, which are under increasing threat from a changing climate.-
We are currently involved in bat research throughout Alaska and monitor a network of little brown myotis maternity colonies. We perform emergence counts and mist-netting surveys at colonies in interior, southeast, and southcentral Alaska. Additionally, we assist home owners with building their own artificial bat roosts. We are partners with the ADF&G Threatened, Endangered and Diversity program. They have a citizen science monitoring program where you can report your sightings online.
In 2012, the Northern Bat Working Group was established to foster communication and collaboration among bat researchers in Alaska. The group currently has 75 members and is co-chaired by Karen Blejwas (ADF&G) and Jesika Reimer (ACCS).
Northern Bat Working Group
The purpose the Northern Bat Working Group (NBWG) is to share new information and knowledge among those working with bats in northern Canada and Alaska. Interest in bats in the north is increasing, and the working group is intended to connect bat workers across this vast region. The working group has not formalized a precise geographic region that encompasses “the north,” and welcomes participants from Alaska and northwestern Canada, including the northern boreal portions of western provinces and the Pacific coast, including Haida Gwaii. The NBWG is a largely informal group organized under the Western Bat Working Group. The group currently has 75 members; Karen Blejwas (Alaska Department of Fish and Game) and Jesika Reimer (Alaska Center for Conservation Science) serve as co-chairs.
In April 2012, Link Olson (UAM) and Karen Blejwas (ADF&G) organized a session entitled “Bat Ecology in Alaska – Assessing the Risk of White-nose Syndrome” at the meeting of the Alaska Chapter of the Wildlife Society in Anchorage, Alaska. Presentations by researchers from Alaska and Canada provided an excellent overview of the state of our knowledge about northern bats. In the afternoon, biologists and managers from Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and British Columbia gathered together for a working session. It was wonderful to have the opportunity to meet face-to-face and discuss the issues and challenges that are unique to northern bats. Tom Jung (Yukon) and Cori Lausen (British Columbia) encouraged the group to take the next step and form a Northern Bat Working Group – so we did!
Current Bat Research in Alaska
In order to facilitate communication and collaboration, we are currently compiling a list of researchers, publications and study areas that have/are taking place in Alaska. If you would like to submit your study area to the mapping effort, please email Jesika Reimer for details: jpreimer (at) uaa.alaska.edu.
For more information about the Northern Bat Working Group, please contact Karen Blejwas (karen.blejwas (at) alaska.gov) or Jesika Reimer (jpreimer (at) uaa.alaska.edu).
- Formation of a listserve to connect group members.
- NBWG members Link Olson (UAM) and Tom Jung (Yukon) edited a special issue of Northwestern Naturalist entitled “Recent Advances in Bat Research in Northwestern Canada and Alaska” that was published in December 2014.
- Several teleconferences have been held to update participants on research and monitoring activities.
- A first meeting was held in Juneau on April 13, 2015.
- An assessment using the IUCN threats matrix was initiated for northern bats (broken out by species and LCC) at the April 13, 2015, meeting (ongoing).
- A second meeting was held in Anchorage on March 29th, 2016. Abstracts and session descriptions will be posted on the website in the near future.
- Establishment of a webpage to share information and resources and keep group members up to date on existing and planned research.
Roost Monitoring Network
In response to the recent arrival of white-nose syndrome (WNS) to Washington, the Alaska Center for Conservation Science initiated a bat maternity roost monitoring program during the summer of 2016. WNS is a disease that affects small, hibernating bat species during winter, and has a 90% mortality rate for infected little brown myotis (the only bat species present in interior Alaska) colonies. It is currently present in 31 states and 5 Canadian provinces in eastern North America, has killed over 6 million bats to date. Since we do not have a good understanding of where bats in interior Alaska roost during winter, it is not possible to monitor winter hibernacula for the arrival of WNS. However, since female bats return to the same roost each summer, investigating and monitoring populations at these roost sites is the next best alternative.
In 2016, we initiated a little brown bat monitoring program. With the help of local residents, we located and surveyed little brown myotis maternity roosts in interior Alaska. In summer 2018, we expanded our study to include maternity roosts in Southeast Alaska and on the Kenai Peninsula. To see the network of current maternity roosts being monitored, click on the “Alaska Bat Roost Network” button below.