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Special Topics:
The Natural History of Bats

Biology 4381/6381
Maymester at Angelo State University


BatAlmost 1/4 of all mammal species are bats (1,116 species) ranging in size from the 2 gram Bumblebee Bat to the 750 gram flying foxes. As a group they are poorly understood and often feared. Common misconceptions about bats contribute to the fear. Bats do not get tangled in hair, they do not all carry rabies, they do not all suck blood, and they are not blind. They are amazing creatures. They are nocturnal (active at night) and use a sophisticated ultrasonic detection system known as echolocation. They play an important role in many ecosystems as seed dispersers, pollinators and controllers of night-flying insects.
Big Bend

The objective of this class is to study the ecology and evolution of the order Chiroptera with emphasis on unique adaptations related to the life history strategies and echolocation of North American bats. Students in this class will gain hands-on experience with field techniques used in sampling and identifying bat species in natural habitats. Instruction will be through lecture, field activities, specimen identification, reading assignments, slides and videos. The class will travel to Eckert James River Bat Cave near Mason, Texas to witness the mass emergence of Mexican Free-tailed Bats and to Big Bend National Park, Texas (home to 22 species of bats) to study the local bat fauna.

PLEASE NOTE: Participation in this course requires strenuous physical activity, hiking in hot temperatures, working late, quick meals, sleeping in uncomfortable situations, primitive accommodations (no showers), and a VERY small risk of rabies exposure. For protection from bat bites, all students are required to wear leather gloves. You must provide your own equipment (headlamps, gloves, canteens, backpacks, and camping equipment) and your own non-perishable meals. All participants will be required to sign a liability waiver.

About the instructor Rules and Regulations Look at bat photos


Bat-Related LinksBat

About the Instructor

Dr. Loren AmmermanLoren K. Ammerman is co-author of a new edition of Bats of Texas (2012) with C. Hice and D. Schmidly. She has been working with bats for about 25 years in both tropical and desert ecosystems.  She has advised numerous students at Angelo State University on field techniques and research on bat biology.  She teaches Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Advanced Genetics, Biosystematics, and General Zoology in the Department of Biology at Angelo State University.

She also taught Vertebrate Field Zoology at Texas Wesleyan University and Comparative Anatomy, Introductory Biology and Scientific Writing at University of Texas at Arlington. She has led numerous field trips to Big Bend National Park and to Costa Rica.  She received her Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1993. Her dissertation topic was the evolutionary relationships of bats.

What books do we use?

Bats of Texas 2012 BookRequired. Bats of Texas by Loren K. Ammerman, Christine L. Hice and David J. Schmidly (Texas A&M University Press) is required.  You should have read p. 1-19 and p. 53-63 BEFORE the first class day
Bats in Question BookRequired. Bats In Question by Don E. Wilson is required (Smithsonian Institution Press). You should have READ p. 1-32 AND p. 81-111 BEFORE the first class day.

A packet of selected articles will also be required. This material will be available on Blackboard sometime in early May.

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How are grades determined?

Grades will be determined by performance on quizzes, lab assignments, an oral report, a field journal, a research report, and participation in the field. The journal and research report will be 50% of your grade (view the journal guidelines). The quizzes, key exercises, and oral reports are worth 30%. The remaining portion of your grade (20%) is for effort and participation in hikes, discussions, netting, and species identification.

It is your responsibility to attend all class meetings. I reserve the right to lower your grade by up to 10% for excessive absences (that would lower your final grade one letter) or you may be dropped from the course. Late assignments will be heavily penalized. There will be no makeup tests.

What is the cost of the trip?

The course fee is $200. You will pay this fee along with your tuition. This fee helps to cover gas expenses, camping fees, and van rental. You will be responsible for all meals during the trip.

Where do we stay?

We will be staying in tents most nights that we are gone. We will assess tent availability and assign tent-mates on the first day of class. We will camp in the group campsite in the Basin in Big Bend National Park (phone 432-477-2251). There are flush toilets here, but no showers. We will visit the coin operated showers in Rio Grande Village at least once. On some occasions we may not return to the campground and instead spend the night at the netting site.

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Rules and Regulations

  • Everyone is expected to help and participate.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • No radios in camp or while batting, headphones are OK at campsite.
  • No alcohol.
  • Wear gloves at all times while handling bats.
  • Keep walkie-talkies on at all time while in vehicles.
  • Be ready to leave at pre-determined times.
  • No switching groups.
  • Do not wander off alone.
  • Keep bear treats locked in separate bag in bear boxes (no food, toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant in tents).
  • Keep up-to-date on your journal notes.
  • Be flexible, plans are always subject to change.
  • Have a good attitude!

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How do I sign up?

The course is limited to 15 students. You must be approved for the course by Dr. Ammerman before registering during the Summer pre-registration. Come by room 003B in the Cavness Building or call 325-486-6643 if you have any questions. Contact Loren K. Ammerman for more information.

Go to ASU Department of Biology Home Page

This web page created by Loren K. Ammerman. Revised 2013.

Echolocating bat image courtesy of Bat Conservation International.