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Articles, Citizen Cyberscience Summit

iBats: Using smart phones and citizen networks to globally monitor bats – Kate Jones

Saturday 18th February

Speaker: Kate Jones

Topic: Ecological citizen science

Website: http://www.ibats.org.uk/

Kate Jones of the Zoological Society for London and the Bat Conservation Trust gave a very interesting talk about iBats (the Indicator Bats Program).   Despite the evidence of human benefit from biodiversity, it is difficult to acquire high quality data, especially over large geographical areas.  Certain animal species such as bats are therefore important biodiversity indicators because their population trends can be used to monitor global changes.

Bats live nearly every geographical niche, are very sensitive to environmental change and 1 in 5 mammal species on earth is a bat.  Despite this, bats are underrepresented in citizen monitoring programs when compared to more popular groups such as birds.  iBats took on the challenge.

Bats provide some help for those trying to monitor in that they produce echo location by ultra sound that can be used to distinguish numbers of individuals and even individual species.  iBats has created a means to harness this unique bat quality by engaging volunteers to record bat calls through high frequency microphones and therefore monitor bat populations.  Certain species can now be identified with 97 to 100 percent accuracy and as the ‘Echo Bank’ continues to gather more data, this accuracy will only increase.

iBats has now engaged more than 700 volunteers in several countries across Eurasia and began to influence policies in those countries.   Pilot projects have been started in 8 other countries all over the world.  Volunteers using the iBats web data portal upload and manage their data to get feedback and distribution.  More recently, iBats has developed applications for Android and iPhone phones which link to a bat detector, record, geolocate and automatically upload data to the website.  The techniques being used in the iBats program are being tested and applied to monitor other animals such as frogs, birds and crickets.

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