Conservation and Ecology of California Bats

General Description:

This course will train participants in techniques for assessing bats and their habitats. In the local area surrounding the Sierra Nevada Field Campus we can expect to encounter as many as 17 of California's 23 bat species (SNFC bat species list and Meadow Restoration and Bat monitorng). Participants will learn various contact and non-contact survey methods including mistnetting, acoustic surveys, and roost recognition and evaluation. Habitat requirements and special considerations for individual species will be presented with an emphasis on conservation and management strategies. The course will develop an understanding of bat biology as a foundation for understanding the special environmental needs of bats. The class will meet in a seminar format in which all students will become involved in developing principle concepts from readings and discussions. However, much of the learning will be in the field to provide a hands-on learning experience with the goal of developing discriminating techniques of data collection and analysis. The course will focus on preparing personnel engaged in wildlife management roles, but will be open to anyone with an interest in bat wildlife biology.

Special Instructions

Rabies vaccination is not a requirement for taking this course, but it is a requirement if you wish to participate in handling live bats. If you think you might ever handle live bats, or any other wild mammal, we encourage you to go ahead and get vaccinated as it provides an essentially lifetime immunization (authorities recommend a titer check every two years). The procedure involves a series of three injections over a month (plan ahead) costs vary depending upon your health plan. The injections are minor, similar to a tetanus shot. To handle bats, proof of vaccination is required by the time the course convenes.

If you were previously vaccinated for rabies, unless you have already done so within the past year, we recommend that you get your rabies titer checked to confirm your protection. This link provides resources that you can give to your health care provider if they do not already know how to check your rabies titer.

Additional Facts about Rabies and Rabies Links


Instructor: Joe Szewczak, B.S.E. (1980) Duke University, Ph.D. (1991) Brown University, is an Associate Professor at Humboldt State University in Arcata, CA. His research has investigated the extraordinary physiological capabilities of bats and other small mammals, from cold torpor to the intense demands of flight and high altitude, and the physiological ecology of bats, that is, the integrated effects of the environment upon the organism. For example, he discovered that hibernating bats can go withoutbreathing for two and a half hours, and determined how they do accomplish such a feat. His teaching includes "Using SonoBat for Non-invasive Bat Monitoring" for the University of California, "Biology of the Chiroptera" at Humboldt State University, and "The Ecology and Conservation of California Bats" through San Francisco State University. Joe has also taught acoustic monitoring workshops for Bat Conservation International and other groups in California, Oregon, Arizona, Washington, South Dakota, Montana, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. He is the developer of SonoBat software to analyze and interpret bat echolocation calls and is currently developing automated bird and bat acoustic monitoring and identification methods for the Department of Defense (SERDP) and other state and federal agencies.

Class Schedule

Plan to arrive at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus on Sunday evening. We will begin the class Monday morning, but thereafter we will meet mid-morning and the afternoons for class work, then spend our evenings in the field, typically past midnight. Class will conclude by Friday noonish.

Access to our survey sites will entail short hikes of a mile or less, sometimes over irregular terrain.


Students desiring a grade may take a written exam on the final class meeting.

Supplies and Other Useful Items


  • As much of our experience together will be nocturnal, dependable sources of light will be essential. To keep your hands free, we recommend a good head lamp with one or more back-up lights that you can pocket, such as a mini headlamp, or one you could hold in your teeth should your primary light fail. The Black Diamond Icon and Petzl Duo are good choices because they have both a low beam for close work and high beam for checking the nets at a distance.
  • Batteries; rechargeable NiMH batteries work well
  • A bright spot light for checking nets and foraging bats will augment your head lamp, but is not essential.
  • For handling bats, we will use nitrile gloves as per White Nose Syndrome protocol. Some people may still prefer more protection until they gain more skill handling bats. If so, then select thin, supple leather gloves - find a pair that fits your hand well and lets you retain your dexterity; the thinner the leather the better to afford dexterity. Some driving gloves work nicely.
  • As many of our netting sites span water, hip waders make trips into the stream more pleasant on cool nights, but any other foot gear (and pants) that you don't mind getting wet will do fine (if you don't mind getting cold!); but we don't recommend this approach.
  • Also bring binoculars, a notebook, day pack, water bottle, and any other gear you typically carry with you in the field.


Nights near the Field Campus can often approach freezing, and even relatively mild nights seem cold when sitting in wait for bats. So bring plenty warm gear, sweaters, gloves, hats, rain gear, and long underwear to provide a variety of layering options to "suit" the conditions.

Camping gear


  • day pack
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellant
  • alarm clock
  • water bottles
  • plastic containers for packed lunches


A compiled notebook of readings will be prepared for each student. Please be expected to help support the copying costs of this notebook, which should come to about $35.

A good read for a general overview of bats and their behavior:

  • Altringham, John D. 1996. Bats: Biology and Behavior. Oxford University Press.
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For the serious-minded, a book with something about everything to do with bats:

  • Kunz, T.H., and S. Parsons 2009. Ecological and Behavioral Methods for the Study of Bats, 2nd edition. Smithsonian Press, Washington, D. C. 901 pp.
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Other books of interest most of which are available from Speleobooks. We will have most of these books (and other materials) available during the class.

  • Kunz, T.H. 2006. Bat Ecology
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  • Altenbach, J. S. and E. D. Pierson. 1994. The importance of mines to bats: an overview.
  • Barbour, R. W. and W. H. Davis. 1979. Bats of America.
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  • Barclay, R.M.R and R.M. Brigham (ed.). 1996. Bats and Forests Symposium, October 19-21, 1995, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
    Order at Crown Publications
  • Fenton, M. B. 1983. Just Bats.
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  • Fenton, M. B. 1992. Bats. Facts on File, New York. 207 pp.
  • Findley, J. S. 1993. Bats, a Community Perspective.
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  • Ingles, L.G. Mammals of the Pacific States.
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  • Kunz, T.H. and P.A. Racey 1998. Bat Biology and Conservation. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 365 pp.
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  • Tuttle, M. D. 1988. America's Neighborhood Bats. Univ. of Texas Press.
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  • Tuttle, M. D. and A. R. Taylor. 1994. Bats and Mines. Bat Conservation International, Austin, TX. 42 pp.
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