So what was I actually studying in Africa? Well I thought I would share with you an extract from my project proposal so you can have an idea : “This study aims to determine whether (1) an increase in insect diversity causes an increase in bat abundance, (2) an increase in altitude causes a decrease in insect diversity and thus bat abundance and (3) the proposed method, using a more rapid biodiversity assessment, is suitable for such studies in the tropics and can contribute to more efficient conservation decision making in the future. In addition to this, the study aims to consider specifically moth abundance in three families as potential anecdotal evidence for trends within the data.
With these aims this study hopes to link species abundance with lowland habitats for focused conservation effort. This study also understands the need for rapid biodiversity assessments for more efficient conservation decision making in the local Mlawula nature reserve in Swaziland. Our research in this field study is therefore approached from a different angle than has been previously seen in other studies that have sampled over a longer time frame. We therefore wish to assess the method for rapid biodiversity assessment to determine whether a simple insect diversity measure could be used as an easier and more economic indicator for measuring bat abundance”.
How did it go? Sampling wise it went great! The bat detector was fairly easy to learn to read. Insect and moth identification proved to be more of a struggle and we only IDed to order or family level. Our raw data implies that our hypothesis was correct on moth and insect, but the opposite for bats. The higher altitude had more bats than the low, and we think perhaps it may because of proximity to caves. Also the way we read our data may have affected our results, were each passing was considered a different individual, when actually it could have been the same individual flying back and forth. Maybe we are getting more readings up there because there are less insects, which means bats need to work harder and fly around more to find them!
Every day we walked up to the higher altitude to bring down the bat detector and sticky traps that we put up there the day before. It was a lovely walk, some days nicer that others, with an excellent view at the top.
For the entire project we didn’t see a bat as we were only determining their presence through the sconogram data created by the bat detector. However, Iain put up a mist net on one of the days and we got to see some species up and close! We saw an insectivorous bat which we identified as a myotis welwitschii, and was the first recording of that species in that area! We also got to see a fruit bat! Some of us got to handle them, including myself, and it was so cool!