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. Bring together existing databases for traits into one large global database that can underpin many different projects
    • Morphology
    • Functional traits
    • Life history traits
    • Acoustics
    • Behavior
    • Genomics
    • Habitat requirements
    • Parasites
    • Pathogens
    • Population sizes
    • Etc.
  2. Use this database to answer questions related to:
    • Diversification
    • Extinction
    • Conservation
    • Disease dynamics
    • Evolution of traits
    • Etc.

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.

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

  1. Use data on bat species traits (genomic, phenomic, life history, 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.
  2. Search for general rules governing plasticity and resilience; can these be predictive?
  3. Will require technical knowledge from:
    • Phenomics
    • Genomics
    • Behavioral ecology
    • Etc.

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.

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

  1. Using epigenomic tools to find out bat ages will enable estimates of age frequency distributions, among other key life history characteristics.
  2. Multispecies bat epigenetic clocks have been tested and seem robust to species and samples.
  3. Will require technical knowledge from:
    • Phenomics
    • Genomics
    • Behavioral ecology
    • Etc.

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

Development as the key to phenotypic diversity across the bat radiation

  1. Although the taxonomic diversity of bats is remarkable within mammals, phenotypic diversity is great even when compared to many vertebrates.
  2. Evolutionary development is the foundation for discovering the basis of such diversity.
  3. Helps answer why there are so many different kinds of bat.

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

Developing effective population size estimates for bats worldwide

  1. Will enable past and continuous population monitoring.
  2. Genetic diversity is an indispensable metric of the evolutionary potential of a population and, given a number of assumptions, can be leveraged to estimate effective population size.
  3. Longitudinal estimates of Ne can inform conservation plans and management, translocation, and population ecology

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.

Bats as habitats and bats in habitats

  1. Bats host diverse parasites and commensals including diverse microbiomes, viromes, and ectoparasites, they are habitats.
  2. However, bats vary across habitats and global change is shifting bats and communities associated with them.

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.

Measuring stress in bats

  1. Traditionally, stress has been measured using techniques that do not scale easily, but new methods enable estimating viral prevalence, upregulation of inflammatory or heat shock genes, and similar biomarkers can scale.
  2. 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.

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

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

  1. Bat evolution, particularly flight, but also life history, have shaped bat immune repertoires and profiles, facilitating adaptation and ecological interactions with viruses.
  2. 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.

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

Improving and standardizing monitoring protocols to enable conservation planning

  1. Improving technologies and ways to monitor bats in different contexts, including acoustics, eDNA, counts, and long-term monitoring.
  2. How to engage and use citizen scientists around the world.

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.

Prioritizing conservation attention on key habitats and key species

  1. Includes using existing programs such as IUCN’s Key Biodiversity Areas to get global recognition of habitats and sites that meet IUCN KBA criteria.
  2. Addresses ways to determine conservation priorities and efforts beyond KBAs.
  3. Determines prioritizing species based on umbrella or keystone concepts or defines criteria for species prioritization.

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

Science communication to targeted audiences: Scientists vs. public audiences

  1. Recognizes that science communication to scientists is different than science communication to general audiences
  2. Leverages GBatNet’s member networks to develop and share materials to educate and raise awareness about bats and bat conservation

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.

Science communication for policy-makers and decision-makers

  1. Recognizes that communication to policy and decision makers requires specific tactics and approaches
  2. Scientists need training on how to communicate effectively with this target audience

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.

Assessing species vulnerability and threat of climate change

  1. Determining species risk to climate change in human modified environments
  2. Recognizes global importance and urgency of climate change threat
  3. Combine life history, phylogeny, to predict risk of threats

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

Socio-ecological interactions at the bat-human interface

  1. Uses network models to characterize and discovery the complex interactions of human behavior, attitudes, and norms to bat ecological networks

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

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

  1. A global survey or assessment of perceptions of bats to understand attitudes in variable cultural contexts
  2. Specific interest in perceptions of bats in COVID-era and how risk of spillover or disease transmission influence perception and persecution

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