West Geauga science students will add bat houses to Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve.
When bats hunt from dawn to dusk, they can eat hundreds of insects in just one hour, including those unpopular mosquitoes.
So to help this important insectivore – and friend to humans – students at West Geauga High School have been working with Geauga Park District to build two bat houses for Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve.
Bat houses provide space for bat maternity colonies to rear their young, called pups. These houses will be installed near Lake Kelso, which will provide an ample water source for the future colony.
“Bats will also use other areas to roost, such as trees that are hollow or have shaggy bark and buildings,” said Joel Firem, Geauga Park District land steward. “The bat species most likely to use the houses built by these students are Little Brown Bats and Big Brown Bats.”
West Geauga High School science educator Mike Sustin said he was thrilled when his students, five seniors and eight juniors, were invited to participate in this collaborative project.
“Geauga Park District has been a valuable resource to my students and a big help to me, both personally and professionally, over the past decade,” Sustin said. “Opportunities like this bat conservation project provide exactly the kind of real-world context that becomes the backdrop for classroom lessons, covering broad topics like stewardship and biodiversity, as well as finer points like species ecology and life histories, and integrated pest management.
“As a matter of fact, there was a free response question about White-nose syndrome in bats on last year’s AP Environmental Science Exam, given to tens of thousands of students across the globe,” Sustin said. “For some kids, just one well-written essay can make the difference between passing or failing the exam.
“Most importantly, the experiences working with others, with their hands, out in the field, will stay with these students forever, and may steer their career and other life choices.”
Burton Wetlands’ new bat houses will be ready for their first-ever tenants whenever they return from their southernly overwintering areas. If the houses become successfully occupied this spring, pups will be born anytime from May through early June, and be weaned after four to six weeks and ready to survive on their own. One house can have a capacity of 247 bats, so the two houses would approach 500 residents, Firem said.
Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve is a 305-acre park located at 15681 Old Rider Road in Burton Township. For more information on the property and its natural features, please visit Burton Wetlands Nature Preserve.
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