Interdisciplinary Projects

GBatNet IBRC 2022 Workshop Panorama

About this work

As the global network of bat networks, our goal for this meeting is to advance GBatNet’s scientific agenda in service of our vision of sustainable bat diversity in a changing world. To this end, we implemented a series of online sessions collectively called the Big Bat Brainstorm. During those online sessions we emphasized integrative research responsive to two questions: 1) why are there so many bat species? and 2) how are we going to save them? We explicitly focused on projects that could not be conducted by a single lab or discipline; e.g., none of the potential projects are at a scope equivalent to one student’s dissertation. We then conducted a How-Now-Wow prioritization exercise to identify a set of projects to be implemented with all deliberate speed.

Below, there are brief explanations for each of the projects. The linked sign-up sheet is a single form where you can sign up for multiple projects all at once. The three types of roles that you may sign up for are:

  • Leader: You are interested in leading the project. Please sign up to be leader of only one working group. There will be at least two leads for each project.
  • Collaborator: You are interested in participating as a regular contributing member to the project.
  • Consultant: You have relevant expertise or information and may be asked for input, but you do not have enough time to participate in the regular activities for the project.

Project List

Big Bat Database

  1. Description:
    Bring together existing databases for traits (morphology, functional traits, life history traits, acoustics, behavior, genomics, habitat requirements, parasites, pathogens, population sizes, etc.) into one large global database that can underpin many different projects and use this database to answer questions about drivers of diversification, extinction, conservation, disease dynamics, evolution of traits, etc.
  2. Goals:
    • To set number of traits populated across many species.
    • To gather as much data ad possible, identify the gap and develop guidelines for data collection.
    • To have fully documented data in some structure in a central database.

Integrations: Would draw on people and data from all GBatNetworks and inform all research fields/projects. Various portions of this database will be necessary for most other GBatNet projects.

Progress: This working group is holding regular meetings and brainstorming sessions, has defined the number and kind of traits to be collected across species and is gearing up to beta test defined traits across groups of divergent bats.

Niche Plasticity in Bats: How and why do species respond differently to environmental change

  1. Description:
    Use data on bat species traits (genomic, phenomic, life history, behavioral ecology etc.), geographic and habitat data, and info on responses to urbanization to characterize bat niches and evaluate how different species respond to anthropogenic and environmental change. Search for general rules governing plasticity and resilience; can these be predictive?
  2. Goal:
    • To create a database for species evaluation in responses to anthropogenic and environmental change.

Integrations: Would draw on people and data from all GBatNetworks and inform all research fields/projects. Various portions of this database will be necessary for most other GBatNet projects.

Progress: This WG is looking for more voluntary leaders.

How old is this bat? Probing life history and demography using methylation clocks

  1. Description:
    Using epigenomic tools to find out bat ages will enable estimates of age frequency distributions, among other key life history characteristics, requiring knowledges from phenomics, genomics and behavioral ecology. Multi-species bat epigenetic clocks have been tested and seem robust to species and samples.
  2. Goals:
    • To train folks to use and interpret methylation clocks to age samples.
    • To provide access of existing methodologies to public.
    • To enable anyone, anywhere, to determine the age of their bat species at scale.
    • To organize the improvement of methylation and other biological clocks for bat research.

Integrations: Leverages regional networks for sampling, analysis, and interpretation. Involves technical expertise from genomics, but applications focus on population ecology and conservation

Progress: This working group plans to publish a standardized protocol for collecting bat methylation ages, including a video component.

Development as the key to phenotypic diversity across the bat radiation

  1. Description:Although the taxonomic diversity of bats is remarkable within mammals, phenotypic diversity is great even when compared to many vertebrates. This WG helps to answer why there are so many different kinds of bat based on the taxonomic and phenotypic diversity and evolutionary development, which is the foundation for discovering the basis of such diversity.
  2. Goals:
    • To identify teams/groups and projects of eco-evo-devo questions and coordinate field efforts to built and establish databases with resources based on their expertise as well as field of research.
    • To apply for grant and publish the results in big review paper.
    • To have a network with local collaborators and other WG like SciCom for outreach about the main results.

Integrations: Potential to build regional capacity and expand skills to regional networks.

Progress: This working group is working on an integrative evolutionary manuscript, which integrates across biological collections and bat radiations.

Developing effective population size estimates for bats worldwide

  1. Description:
    Will enable past and continuous population monitoring. Genetic diversity is an indispensable metric of the evolutionary potential of a population and, given a number of assumptions, can be leveraged to estimate the effective population size Ne. Longitudinal estimates of Ne can inform conservation plans and management, translocation, and population ecology.
  2. Goals:
    • To write papers covering the conceptual background of effective population size, and also comparing the accuracy of different methods of estimating Ne.
    • To organise multiple hybrid workshops for researchers, conservationist and managers globally.

Integrations: While firmly grounded on population genetics assumptions, systematic collection of Ne will both benefit from observations and interpretation by conservation-oriented and regional networks, and provide information to their efforts.

Progress: This working group is holding regular meetings and has outlined a manuscript to estimate population sizes based on genetic data worldwide.

Bats as habitats and bats in habitats

  1. Description:
    Bats host diverse parasites and commensals including diverse microbiomes, viromes, and ectoparasites, they are habitats. However, bats vary across habitats and global change is shifting bats and communities associated with them. Our working group seeks to create a framework for the the WG by enumerating the threats to bat habitats, determining how that affects bats as hosts of other organisms, and synthesizing feedbacks between different levels of biological organization (consistent with NSF Big Idea “Understanding the Rules of Life”).
  2. Goals:
    • To focus on underdeveloped research areas within this framework and calling for new collaborators.
    • To publish paper outlining the Bats In/As Habitats concept and data collection to address the knowledge gaps.

Integrations: By exploring reciprocal feedbacks between bats as habitats and bats in habitats, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of how bats are responding to change – a key focus of both conservation and regional networks. Will inform One Health disease ecology applications.

Progress: This working group is holding regular meetings and has defined priority goals of drafting a review paper that also serves as the starting point for a grant submission.

Measuring stress in bats

  1. Description:
    Traditionally, stress has been measured using techniques that do not scale easily, but new methods enable estimating viral prevalence, up-regulation of inflammatory or heat shock genes, and similar biomarkers can scale. So our group will determining how bats are stressed in the face of ongoing change is central to understanding spillover risks, as well as sustaining bat populations going forward.
  2. Goals:
    • To review the knowledge gaps and do the meta analysis.
    • To share SOPs on biomakers review.
    • To create GLOBAL stress ATLAS.

Integrations:Integrations: Determining stress levels in bats is of critical importance to ecology, ecology of infectious disease, and monitoring bat population health.

Progress: This working group is holding regular meetings, and has set an ambitious target of reviewing 30,000 papers with the goal of producing a synthesis.

How has the bat immune system evolved and influenced bat diversification?

  1. Description:
    Bat evolution, particularly flight, but also life history, have shaped bat immune repertoires and profiles, facilitating adaptation and ecological interactions with viruses. By combining genomics of immune system proteins (e.g., MHC, innate immunity) with other ecological and adaptive traits, we will gain predictive power on ecological interactions of relevance to sustaining populations.
  2. Goals:
    • To create perspective mini “how-to” guide on standardizing bat immunology for people getting into the field.
    • To craft a skeleton of the bat immunology e-database.
    • To create a full, freely accessible database on bat immunology.

Integrations: Integrates across genomics and ecological diversity, potential for broad capacity building, communicating with public and stakeholders, and shaping policy.

Progress: This working group is holding regular meetings, has defined subgroups, and is prioritizing a best practices manuscript for immunological data collection.

Improving and standardizing monitoring protocols to enable conservation planning

  1. Description:
    Improving technologies and ways to monitor bats in different contexts, including acoustics, eDNA, bats counts, and long-term monitoring by engaging and using expertise from multiple disciplines and citizen science scientists around the world. This could help to inform and implement the best standardized assessments to the public from local to regional to global scale.
  2. Goals:
    • To compile information on field methods and protocols based on region and field expertise and publish it.
    • To create a monitoring protocol database/website as well as apps for citizen science usage.
    • To organize workshops and citizen science engagement on how to monitor bats using proper protocols.

Integrations: Regional networks working to implement monitoring that helps inform local to regional to global conservation assessments (e.g. IUCN Red List). Involves technical expertise across multiple disciplines, including technological advancement, population ecology, and conservation.

Progress: This working group is holding regular meetings and has prioritized convening regional leaders, compiling information, and launching a beta website on standards. Publication plans extend into the three year range.

Prioritizing conservation attention on key habitats and key species

  1. Description:
    Includes using existing programs such as IUCN’s Key Biodiversity Areas to get global recognition of habitats and sites that meet IUCN KBA criteria. Addresses ways to determine conservation priorities and efforts beyond KBAs. Determines prioritizing species based on umbrella or keystone concepts or defines criteria for species prioritization.
  2. Goals:
    • To conduct national and regional analyses to identify priority areas for bat conservation action by recuriting teams to undertake the proactive actions.
    • To ensure bats are properly represented globally within KBAs as trigger species and formally recognizing areas and sites important to bats.
    • To scale the RELCOM AICOM/SICOM model globally.
    • To establish long term partnership with stakeholders.

Integrations: Uses knowledge from existing networks (RELCOM) to share with other regional networks and aligns with GBatNet vision focused on saving bat species.

Progress: This working group is holding regular meetings, and is advancing a concept paper on key biodiversity areas worldwide and with a regional focus as well.

Science communication to targeted audiences: Scientists vs. public audiences

  1. Description:
    Recognizes that science communication to scientists is different than science communication to general audiences. Together, we will leverages GBatNet’s member networks to develop and share materials to educate and raise awareness about bats and bat conservation.
  2. Goals:
    • To plan storytelling workshops with guidelines for it.
    • To produce communication guidance with resources available from all around the world on the website.
    • To make 2025 as the successful Big Bat Year by having several campaigns with the help of other WG.

Integrations: Connected to other Science Communication efforts focused on other types of stakeholders such as policy makers & decision makers. iIntegrate with social scientist approaches that study how education and awareness influence attitudes, perceptions and ultimately behavior change. Integrates with scientific discovery to convey scientific information effectively and provocatively.

Progress: The Science Communication group has had a series of meetings and identified six major areas to focus, ranging from social media and workshops to resource acquisition.

Science communication for policy-makers and decision-makers

  1. Description:
    Recognizes that communication to policy and decision makers requires specific tactics and approaches. Scientists need training on how to communicate effectively with this target audience.
  2. Goal:
    • To prepare scientist to properly communicate with policy makers.

Integrations: Connected to other Science Communication efforts and requires understanding of government affairs, understanding of science, and science communication. Will depend on context of country and government structure, etc.

Progress: This WG is looking for more voluntary leaders.

Assessing species vulnerability and threat of climate change

  1. Description:
    Determining species risk to climate change in human modified environments. Recognizes global importance and urgency of climate change threat. Combine life history, phylogeny, to predict risk of threats.
  2. Goal:
    • To create database determining the risks of climate change on bat species.

Integrations: Uses predictive modeling and data from different source and could produce products that inform conservation planning.

Progress: This WG is looking for more voluntary leaders.

Socio-ecological interactions at the bat-human interface

  1. Description:
    Uses network models to characterize and discovery the complex interactions of human behavior, attitudes, and norms to bat ecological networks and to use this understanding to improve global bat conservation.
  2. Goals:
    • To be familiar with social ecological networks (SENs) and identify the human-bat interface.
    • To publish paper(s) on social ecological networks (SENs) at the human-bat interface.

Integrations: Social science modeling and ecological network modeling are integrated together.

Progress: This working group is holding regular meetings and is currently working on analyzing socio-ecological networks. This will enable the group to identify what data are currently available and what need to be collected for future research.

Global assessment of perceptions of bats and how that relates to human behaviors and behavior change

  1. Description:
    A global survey or assessment of perceptions of bats to understand attitudes in variable cultural contexts. Specific interest in perceptions of bats in COVID-era and how risk of spillover or disease transmission influence perception and persecution.
  2. Goal:
    • To assess the human-bats conflict relation.

Integrations: Needs social scientist input for survey design. Outputs could potentially inform and integrate with science communication efforts.

Progress: This WG is looking for more voluntary leaders.