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Graduate Defense: Hunter Cole
July 15 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am MDT
Title: Understanding and Mitigating the Effects of Artificial Light on Bats and Nocturnal Arthropods in Grand Teton National Park
Program: Master of Science in Biology
Advisor: Dr. Jesse Barber, Biological Sciences
Committee Members: Dr. James Belthoff, Biological Sciences, and Dr. Jodi Brandt, Geosciences and Endorsement for Biological Sciences
Bat and insect populations are at risk globally, and identifying factors that may influence bat and insect populations alongside mitigation techniques for anthropogenic factors that may negatively influence these taxa will be crucial for their conservation. To identify landscape characteristics that influence bats throughout Grand Teton National Park, we placed passive acoustic monitors throughout the park in areas with different microhabitat characteristics to identify factors that influence activity. Additionally, we developed a R package, `EcocountHelper`, to assist wildlife managers in analyzing ecological count data similar to our bat monitoring data. As a demonstration of the package, we conducted a GLMM-based analysis of this landscape-scale bat monitoring data. Following our broad-scale assessment of bat activity in Grand Teton National Park, we also installed experimental street lights capable of emitting both red and white light throughout Grand Teton National Park’s Colter Bay area, and monitored bat and insect activity while altering the color of light illuminating a focal parking lot to assess red light’s ability to mitigate the impacts of artificial light on bats and insects.
Through our park-wide acoustic monitoring, we found that bat habitat use varied for the seven species we fit candidate models for, with distance to water, the number of buildings suitable for roosting, and forest cover all influencing activity levels for different species of bats throughout the park. As a result of our fine-spatial-scale research surrounding light pollution mitigation, we also found that red light does not seem to be an effective method of promoting bat activity in artificially illuminated areas that is similar to that of unlit areas, but insects did exhibit more similar sample counts to unlit areas during red light treatment periods than white light treatment periods. Our findings both provide valuable information for land and wildlife managers in Grand Teton National Park to conserve bat and insect populations, and highlight the need for additional research surrounding bat-human interactions. Additionally, we hope our development of a streamlined R package for GLMM analysis using count data will facilitate and promote robust and reproducible analyses for wildlife managers and researchers alike.