Although bats are rarely seen in Yosemite due to their nocturnal behavior, they play a critical role as indicators of ecosystem health. Often referred to as “canaries in the coal mine,” bats can provide vital clues to changes in the environment, such as drought and fire.

This 2015 project invited citizen scientists to participate in a pilot study focused on collecting baseline data on certain bat species, with the long-term goal of helping scientists understand if, when and how Yosemite’s ecosystems may change. The collaborative study included family-friendly evening interpretive walks at Crane Flat, Hodgdon Meadows and White Wolf, where park scientists, visitors and volunteers used an acoustic monitoring device that not only records and identifies bat calls, but also plays the sounds back in the human hearing range.

Over the course of the season, this citizen science project recorded a total of 525 bat echo-location calls representing 16 different species, including three California species of special concern: the spotted bat, pallid bat and western mastiff bat.

Your support made it possible for visitors to participate in an important scientific study that will help researchers learn more not only about Yosemite’s bats, but also about the ecosystems on which those creatures and many others depend.

Completed in partnership with Yosemite National Park.

Lisa Murphy

Mather District field interpretation

Project Notes

Excitingly, through this project, Yosemite has the opportunity to not only pioneer cutting edge technology to gather essential, scientifically valid data of bat species presence, diversity and relative abundance, but also directly engage visitors in stewardship through hands-on experience and education.