A late post, but there is a lot of catch up on.
Everything I had worked towards for the past three years came to an end in May. I successfully defended my thesis project on social calls in Yuma myotis. This involved a public 45 minute presentation to my thesis committee, friends, fellow graduate students and other Humboldt State University students. Following the presentation, and several edits of my thesis manuscript, I had collected the signatures and a completed copy of my thesis was sent to the department office! Even though the graduation ceremony wasn’t until a few weeks after all of this, I had officially completed my master’s degree! The next steps will be more editing and maybe some extended analysis and hopefully a publication.
This fall I will be continuing my academic and bat research journey at Texas A&M University (where I will be starting a PhD program in Biology. More on this later). First, I was offered an amazing opportunity to conduct bat surveys in the Mexican jungle as a volunteer bat scientist. The past 6 weeks I spent my nights chasing bats through Calakmul Biosphere Reserve with Operation Wallacea. Operation Wallacea (also known as OpWall) is a British organization conducting conservation research through academic partnerships. Overall, the organization runs expeditions around the world, conducting biological surveys in jungles, savannahs, coral reefs and deserts. University students from around the world act as research assistants and conduct their own dissertation research. OpWall also hosts groups of high school students, providing a hands-on experience for potential future field biologists and conservationists. All of the science staff are volunteer scientists, professionals and former research assistants.
Each field site conducts general biological surveys, ranging depending on the specific location. Calakmul Biosphere Reserve is located at the base of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is one of the largest protected areas in Mexico and is part of the Selva Maya, the Mayan rainforest that extends into Guatemala and Belize. It is home to all of the major wild cat species of Central America (including jaguars, pumas and ocelots), numerous migratory and endemic bird species and of course, huge diversity of bats. It is also home to one of the largest Maya cities ever uncovered in the Maya lowlands, Calakmul.
It was an amazing experience. Writing just that sounds very glib, but there is no other way to describe the last six weeks. I experience just a glimpse of neotropical bat diversity, met and worked with amazing people who are as passionate and crazy about field work, bats and wildlife as I am, exchanged crazy ideas and theories about why these bats do what they do and enjoyed last late night laughs, endured mosquitoes, stink bugs and stinging bees. In short, I didn’t want come home!
There is so much to share, it is going to take multiple blog posts to share everything. But here are some photos as a teaser of what’s to come.