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Bat Conservation

Automating large scale collection, processing, and reporting of bat acoustic recordings by leveraging Florida USAF-USFWS partnership resources at Avon Park Air Force Range.


Kristopher Pitcher, Wildlife Biologist, United States Air Force, Avon Park:


Recent declines in bat species across North America and their potential listing under the Endangered Species Act poses a special concern to DOD installations where these species may have increasing impacts on the military mission. Avon Park Air Force Range (APAFR) is a 106,034-acre military training installation located in central Florida and represents a valuable link in the regional ecosystem for bats, and hosts the federally endangered Florida bonneted bat (EUFL) and petitioned tricolored bat (PESU). The USAF has partnered with the USFWS to ensure the long-term sustainability of military lands and recovery of endangered species throughout Florida, including bats. One tool the partnership uses towards this mission at APAFR is implementing stationary acoustic bat monitoring using autonomous recording units. This tool provides both USAF and USFWS biologists at the installation a way to quickly monitor the occupancy and activity of both EUFL and PESU, as well as proactively track other bat species occurring on the installation. A common concern with acoustic bat monitoring is dealing with the copious amount of data it produces. Since 2017, USFWS and USAF biologists have streamlined methodology to ingest, process, store and report large amounts of bat data (1,601,788 audio files contained in more than 9TB of data) from stationary acoustic recorders. By developing, integrating, and implementing spatial (ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Online and Field Maps) and numerical database (Microsoft Access and SQL server) capabilities we are now able to quickly quantify and visualize the activity levels of both listed and non-listed bat species at APAFR. This database system, which links spatial data to a SQL server that can be accessed and updated using Microsoft Access, allows USAF and USFWS to query large amounts of data quickly for annual INRMP reports, consultations, and data calls, and also allows us to contribute large amounts of data to national repositories, such as NABat. For example, as of FY21 305,811 bat call files, 28852 of which were manually vetted, have been submitted to NABat by a single USFWS biologist located at APAFR. Overall, our database system facilitates long-term activity and occupancy tracking of both listed and non-listed bat species across the installation. This helps inform our land management practices and better quantify and manage potential impacts from the military mission on listed bats. As a result, the Florida USAF-USFWS Partnership is able to more efficiently and effectively protect listed bat species, proactively monitor species that may be listed in the future, and provide increased Air Force mission flexibility at APAFR.

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