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Bat-tastic Researcher

December 13, 2010

Many students may say that their professors drive them batty, but when they say it about Dr. Loren Ammerman, it is a compliment.

An associate professor in the ASU Biology Department, Ammerman is well-known on campus and in the scientific community as one of the foremost researchers on the bats of Texas.  She not only conducts her own research, but has also mentored numerous student research projects on the state’s many different bat species.  Since 2007, she has been awarded more than $100,000 in grants to support bat research.  Those activities led directly to her winning ASU’s inaugural President’s Faculty Excellence Award for Research/Creative Endeavor in May of 2010.

“I honestly think there are a whole lot of people who are equally qualified to get it,” Ammerman said. “So, it is definitely an honor. I really owe this success to my amazing students and other collaborators that I’ve worked with.”

Ammerman was also recognized with the Texas Tech University System Chancellor’s Council Distinguished Research Award for ASU in December of 2010.

Her research activities also include developing a DNA research program and helping her student researchers acquire their own grant funding through organizations like the Texas Academy of Science, Beta Beta Beta, Texas Society of Mammalogists and Southwestern Association of Naturalists. She has collaborated with researchers across the U.S. and has conducted field studies in Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Malaysian Borneo.

It was in Ecuador that Ammerman experienced one of her research highlights as she helped graduate student Molly McDonough describe a new species of bat that has since been officially named Eumops wilsoni, or Wilson’s bonneted bat.

“Every student project is usually something that I’m interested in,” Ammerman said, “and I want to know the answer just as badly as they do. Being able to go to Ecuador and describe a new species, that was exciting. But, I can’t really pick a favorite project.”

“What I like to do is teach students how to do research and about the process of science,” she added. “It’s fun to have them working on problems that I’m also interested in, and just discovering things together. It is also preparing students for what to expect if they want to go on to a Ph.D. program. I think we do a really good job of preparing them here.”

Like many of her students, Ammerman had no real interest in bats when she got to college. Then, she took a field trip to the Guadalupe Mountains National Park while she was an undergraduate at Texas A&M.

“It was a two-week course where we caught bats every night,” Ammerman said. “I just started to see how different all of the bats were. Before that time, I thought bats were all the same, but we caught maybe 15 different species of bats and I thought ‘wow, there is a lot of diversity here.’ So, I wanted to stay with bats and learn more about them.”

And, stay with them she has. So much so, in fact, that she has co-authored a book, “The Bats of Texas,” with one of her former mentors, Dr. David Schmidly, who is now president of the University of New Mexico. The book is scheduled for release in 2011 published by the Texas A&M Press.

But, as much as she enjoys research, Ammerman has no interest in leaving ASU and her students behind to move on to a larger research institution.

“I’ve had a thought or two about doing that, but I don’t think I ever would,” she said. “ASU offers a perfect mix of teaching and research expectations, and I’m very happy to be here. The people here make a big difference. I’m with people that I work well with and I love my colleagues, so there is no reason to leave.”

In addition to her teaching and research duties, Ammerman is also curator of the Frozen Tissues Collection in the Angelo State Natural History Collections. Her husband, Dr. Mike Dixon, is an assistant professor in the ASU Biology Department and has also done extensive bat research. They have two teenagers, James and Leanne, and James is set to join ASU’s computer game development program in the fall of 2011.

Dr. Loren Ammerman

Associate Professor of Biology

2010 ASU President’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Research/Creative Endeavor

Ph.D. University of Texas, B.S. Texas A&M University