When I first started on my PhD at the beginning of 2016, lots of things had already been done over the previous year, by Abbie Case and Joanne Horton, both MSc students from MMU, and I was really excited to do more over the next few years.
We started by advertising the project and collecting a lot of data from bat carers, who sent us many pictures of bat wings and swabs from injured bat wings. We will start analysing the swabs in the autumn to find whether traces of cat DNA can be found.
We have also looked at the anatomy of the bat wing and have found that the fewest number of vessels and lowest vessel density were in the plagiopatagium section of the wing, which is closest to the body. We have also looked at all the photographs sent by bat carers and found that the most tears also occur in the plagiopatagium. Unfortunately, this part is the worst part to be injured, as its healing process will be slower than that of the other wing parts, due to its fewer blood vessels.
We have also filmed seven bats so far at Lower Moss Wood Wildlife Hospital (three healthy bats, two bats with an injury on one wing, and two bats with an injury on both wings). Preliminary data has shown that there are some significant differences in bats with wing tears, for example the body orientation is affected in bats with two wing tears. We are really looking forward to go back this year with MSc student Charlotte Mead for more filming.
As well as getting together all these preliminary analyses, I have also presented my work at the National Bat Conference and the internal postgraduate research conference at Manchester Metropolitan University. You may have also seen us presenting our work, and recruiting bat carer helpers, at the Mammal Society Conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed this year, and can’t wait to receive more samples this summer to see if our predictions still hold true.
If you would like to get involved please let us know on the website, or email: email@example.com
We are really happy to welcome Charlotte (Charly) Mead to our Bat Research Group at MMU. Charlotte is an MSc student and will be studying the effect of wing tears on flight behaviour for her project. She had a great start to her project by presenting her ideas, and our first results, at the Mammal Society Conference this weekend. We had lots of interest and also managed to hand out about 50 bat packs to interested carers too.
If you would like to help Charly with her project, we would love to hear from you. We would love to film healthy bats and those recovering from tears. All we need is a room larger than 2.5 metres long. Please do email us if you would like to help, and then the bat team with Charly, can come along to film, and also share our videos with you. We have a high-tech, high-speed filming set-up (see post below) and we can measure wing angles, speeds, symmetry and body orientation.
We have the first results from our filming at Lower Moss Wood and it seems that the body orientation of bats with tears is clearly altered, and they also move their wings less, and less often. However, these are just our preliminary findings. With some more samples from Charly's study, we hope to really understand the effect of wing tears on flight.
Please do let us know if you would like more details, or would like to get involved: firstname.lastname@example.org
Congratulations to Rana Osama S Khayat who successfully upgraded from MPhil to a fully-fledged PhD student today. This is great news for our Bat Research at MMU, which Rana leads, as she will definitely be here for another two summers collecting data with us at MMU.
Watch out for us, and Rana, at the Mammal Society Easter Conference, where we will have a stand and will be looking for even more wing tear photos and swabs from bat carers, to keep us busy for the next two years.
In our project, we are also investigating the effect of bat wing tears on flight behaviour. As part of our campaign, we have been asking if any bat carers have rehabilitated bats for us to film. We are interested in healthy bats and also those with recovered or recovering wing tear. On Thursday, the 6th of October 2016, we got a great opportunity to film bats at Lower Moss Wood Educational Nature Reserve, near Knutsford in Cheshire. Therefore, both Rana and Robyn headed off for the day.
Ray Jackson runs the nature reserve and animal hospital, and kindly volunteered his bats for our filming. In the wildlife hospital, Ray has a state-of-the-art bat flight cage, with a CCTV behavioural monitoring system. We filmed a few of the bats in this cage; however, the majority of the animals we filmed flying individually down the long corridors of the wildlife hospital. We filmed nine pipistrelles altogether in this way: four with healthy wings, and five with recovering wing tears. We used a high-speed video camera so we could really see and track all the tiny movements of the wings, and measure the angle, amplitude, frequency and curvature of the wings during flight. We are so pleased with the footage and have already started to track it, so we can extract these fine-scale measurements. We are really looking forward to seeing the results. In our pilot test last summer, we observed that recovered bats moved their wings slightly asymmetrically, even after wing tear healing.
We want to say a big thank you to Ray, who helped us to film the bats and start this part of the project. Lower Moss Wood is a great facility; the wildlife hospital is really new and the nature reserve is a fantastic place to come with educational groups. Indeed, many sessions are run there for schools, disabled visitors and environmental groups to come and enjoy the countryside and learn about the environment.
We are also still looking for swabs of bat wing tears, photos of wing tears and also filming of bat flight. If you are interested in being involved in our project, please do have a look through our website and contact us by email at email@example.com.
The National Bat Conference took place at the University of York from 2nd-4th September 2016. I was lucky enough to attend this year, and present my first conference poster showing the initial results from our Bat Research Project. The poster was entitled: The Effect of Wing Tear Placement on Healing in Bats. Using all the beautiful pictures of Common Pipistrelle wings and their tears submitted by bat carers, we have managed to map where the blood vessels are on the wings of Pipistrelles, and where tears are most likely to occur. Having a good blood supply promotes fast healing; but unfortunately, we have found that the most common wing tear injuries coincide with where there are the least dense blood vessels, in the plagiopatagium (the section of the wing that is closest to the body). Despite the most common wing tear area taking longer to heal, we do still see a lot of recoveries from wing tears, and the next section of our study is to film and measure the flight behaviours of some recovered bats to see how they are doing.
The conference was a great chance to meet many like-minded people who have an interest in bat research. People seemed happy to chat about my findings. I also managed to hand out a few more bat packs to carers, and I cannot wait to receive some more samples in the post!
The talks and the workshops were both wonderful and useful, and I cannot recommend this conference enough.
We are still keen to increase our samples for this study, to test how robust our initial findings are. If you are still keen to be involved in our project, we are always looking for bat carers to send pictures of bat wings with fresh and healed tears. We can also send out bat packs to bat carers, to swab the wing tears so we can investigate their causes using forensic analyses. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be a part of our study.
We have distributed around 150 bat packs, most of them during the Mammal Society Conference 2016 at the Yarnfield Conference Centre, and the rest through requests on our website. So far, we have got 10 swab samples back to us with the questionnaires, which is great! I can’t wait to start work on them and to identify if any cat DNA is present or not. Also, I am looking forward to getting more samples in from bat carers.
We have also received lots of different pictures of tears on bat wings from bat carers and are hoping to receive many more over the Summer. I have collected all of these pictures to compare them visually and to describe the tears and evaluate any similarities and differences between them.
We have had a great weekend at the Mammal Society Conference 2016 at Yarnfield Conference Centre. We had a stall, with a steady stream of visitors, and have managed to hand out about 50 packs so far. We are so grateful for everyone's enthusiasm and support for our study, and can't wait for the packs to start coming in. It has also been really great meeting some of the bat carers who were involved in our pilot last year, and even better that they are keen to be involved this year too. Thanks so much to them!
As well as MMU Bat research, there were some amazing talks and posters on bats too. I especially recommend checking out ecobat.org.uk and also some of the amazing Mammal Atlases being built. Derbyshire have done a particularly sterling job of surveying 99.99% of their county! We are looking forward to see what happens next!
We did a great session with the South Lancashire Bat Group on Tuesday 5th April. There was lots of interest in our work and some fantastic ideas for future projects, including looking at whether bats taste nasty, and radio-tracking some of the bats post-release.
We also gave out the first 20 packs to the bat carers, which is exciting. We can’t wait to get them back and see what we find!
The South Lancashire bat group have some great events coming up, so do keep checking what they are up to: http://www.slbg.org.uk/?page_id=27
Big congratulations to Abigail Case for winning the Best Poster Prize at the Mammal Society 4th Student Conference at Lancaster University, April 2015. Her poster was entitled “Developing a methodology to detect the presence of cat (Felis catus) DNA on bats (Pipistrellus spp)”. Abbie is doing an MSc in Conservation Biology at MMU with Dr Kirsty Shaw and Dr Robyn Grant. As part of her MSc project, Abbie is developing a methodology to identify the presence of cat DNA on injured or perished bat wing, in order to better quantify the occurrence of cat attacks. Indeed, it has been estimated that around 250,000 bats, mainly Pipistrelles, are killed by domestic cats (Felis catus) every year. Abbie extracted both cat and bat DNA from buccal cells using the Chelex method, and amplified it using PCR. Using species-specific primers, both the cat and bat DNA could be identified. This methodology will now be tested on torn bat wings to assess whether cat DNA is present and should provide clues as to the cause of wing tears in injured bats.