Ashland University Professor Attends ‘Bat Blitz’

Seminole Bat

6/21/12 ASHLAND, Ohio – Merrill Tawse, professional instructor of biology at Ashland University, is well known as one of the state’s foremost bat experts and he spent a week earlier this summer in Florida examining bats in an effort to learn even more about them.

After working as a team leader for what was dubbed a “Bat Blitz” in the Apalachicola National Forest in the Florida panhandle last month, Tawse brought that experience back home to the Ashland/Mansfield area where he works with Ashland University biology students conducting research on the ecology of local bat species.

“Along with 10 other team leaders, I led groups of volunteers using mist nets to capture and identify local bats to determine which species occur in the national forest and also to determine health and disease levels,” Tawse said.

Tawse said the trapping occurred in the variety of habitats found in that region including cypress swamps where hollow cypress trees are used as bat roosting sites by some rare species of bats.

"Getting back into some very remote sections of this land of gators, bears and a variety of venomous snakes, the 11 team leaders and their crews ranging in size from four to 10 people caught 246 bats of eight different species, making this the most comprehensive bat survey ever conducted in the state of Florida,” Tawse explained.

He said some of the more exciting finds included the Rafinesque's Big-Eared Bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) and the Seminole Bat (Lasiurus seminolus), which are somewhat similar to the local Eastern Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis), which were also found during the survey.

Tawse said the region where bats were collected has been in drought conditions and the teams had to be careful of several wildfires sparked by lightning strikes.

The event was hosted by the Florida Bat Working Group, which partnered with the U.S. Forest Service, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the University of Florida. The event was featured, complete with photos, on a USDA blogsite at:  
http://blogs.usda.gov/2012/06/08/florida-bat-survey-tests-for-white-nose-syndrome-and-bat-health/

Tawse recently joined Ashland University faculty from the MedCentral College of Nursing science department and is currently teaching human anatomy and physiology to nursing students. His previous experiences include over 30 years in outdoor education and research at the Gorman Nature Center. 

His areas of expertise includes the distribution and foraging behaviors of the insectivorous bats found within the four state region through the utilization of mist netting, acoustic monitoring, radio-telemetry and fecal pellet analysis. Previous field experiences include numerous survey projects directed by USF&WS, NASA and ODNR. Grants for several long-term research projects at Mohican State Forest, the Ravenna Army Arsenal and Killbuck Wildlife areas have been secured from Ohio Biological Survey, Ohio Division of Wildlife and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2012, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.