Indiana Bat Festival set for Sept. 13

August 26 2008

For the second year the Indiana Bat Festival will be held at Indiana State University.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Sept. 13, free activities, including live bat demonstrations and talks by leading bat biologists, will be held in the Hulman Memorial Student Union. There will be activities for children, including an inflatable cave.

John Whitaker Jr., director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation, said bats are an important part of the ecosystem through their food habits.

"Since bats are nocturnal mammals and since there are many falsehoods spread about them, they have a bad reputation from most of society," Whitaker said. "But bats are important to our society in ways that need to be brought to the forefront in education and environmental conservation."

The festival is one such means to educate young and old in a fun environment.

Speakers during the event will include Whitaker, Dale Sparks, research scientist at Indiana State; Al Kurta with Eastern Michigan University; Rob Mies with the Organization for Bat Conservation; and Tim Carter with Ball State University. During Whitaker's talk, he will address white nose syndrome, which has devastated bat colonies in New York, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Mies will give a demonstration using live bats, including a variety of exotic bats such as one of the large fruit bats.

"Bats of Michigan" by Kurta and "Bats of Indiana" by the ISU Bat Center will be for sale during the day.

After a 6 p.m. barbecue dinner, which costs $6, at Dobbs Park, a Bat Science Night will begin at the park. During the night event, scientists will demonstrate netting, radio-tagging and echolocation of bats.

"At night, with luck from the bats and weather, we will be able to see some of our local bats flying about and feeding and we will be able to hear their echolocation calls," Whitaker said.

Whitaker said he hopes people learn that they don't have to be afraid of bats.

"Most bats are insect eaters, but what people don't realize is that bats eat many harmful insects," Whitaker said. "These harmful insects are detrimental to crops that farmers raise."

Crops can be beneficially affected in natural ways simply through bats being present.

"If we have a healthy bat population we will have a decrease in crop damages," he said. "This should reduce the use of harmful pesticides and in turn, give us a cleaner water supply as well."

Whitaker said a well-placed bat box can be a natural way to reduce insects around homes and gardens, while bat droppings make good fertilizer.

"Education is imperative to us with regards to our environment," he said. "Finding ways to live with other species and keeping a balance in check is the answer to a cleaner healthier earth."

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Contact: John Whitaker, Indiana State University, director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation, at 812-237-2383 or jwhitaker3@isugw.indstate.edu  

Writer: Jennifer Sicking, Indiana State University, assistant director of media relations, at 812-237-7972 or jennifer.sicking@indstate.edu

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For the second year the Indiana Bat Festival will be held at Indiana State University.

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