Student lands national fellowship for bat research

July 3, 2007

ISU to host Great Lakes Bat Festival

A national organization of scientists is shining the spotlight on an Indiana State University doctoral student whose research in ecology is shedding new light on an animal most active at night.

The American Society of Mammalogists has awarded Justin Boyles its 2007 Fellowship in Mammalogy in recognition of his research on bats. The fellowship provides $18,000 to release the recipient from teaching duties in order to devote more time to research.

Only one such fellowship is awarded annually in recognition of current accomplishments and the potential for a productive, future role in professional mammalogy.

A Ph.D. student in the Department of Ecology and Organismal Biology, Boyles is conducting research questioning the conventional wisdom that bats should maximum hibernation when no insects are available to eat.

“The idea has always been that bats should do everything they can to save energy, which means they should hibernate at a cold temperature. We found that is not really the case. They quite often hibernate at warmer temperatures than they have to, so we think there is something negative occurring during hibernation,” explained Boyles, who is conducting his research at Indiana State’s Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation.

“When bats hibernate they become sleep deprived, proteins break down, metabolic wastes build up, and so a lot of bad things could happen. We are showing that bats are trying to avoid hibernation as much as they can,” Boyles said.

His research focuses on three bat species: the big brown bat, the little brown bat and the federally endangered Indiana bat.

“The Bat Center, the department, and the entire university, should be very proud of Justin,” said John Whitaker, professor of Ecology and Organismal Biology, the center’s director and Boyles’ mentor. “It’s a very big honor to receive this fellowship. We’ve never had one in my 45 years with the university.”

A native of Osceola, Mo., Boyles holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Missouri State University. He chose Indiana State for his doctoral work because of the reputation of Whitaker and the university.

“ISU is well known for its bat research. It has probably the biggest bat research lab in the country, with a good shot at being the biggest in the world. There’s opportunity to do a lot of work with a lot of people and have a lot of support,” Boyles said.

Boyles’ selection for the fellowship was announced during the Mammalogists Society’s annual meeting in Albuquerque, June 6-10. He is not the only bat researcher at Indiana State to be recognized in recent weeks. Veterinarian Ronny Eidels-Shimmony, a post-doctoral research associate with the Bat Center, received a $2,790 grant from Bat Conservation International to study toxins in bats. Eidels-Shimmony’s research focuses on the health effects of environmental pollutants on bats, particularly from agricultural pesticides that may be ingested through the insects they eat.

Recognition for Indiana State’s Bat Center and its researchers comes in advance of the Great Lakes Bat Festival, which the university will host on Aug. 11. Following a day of scientific presentations at Hulman Memorial Student Union, featuring live bat programs and other talks, an inflatable cave, children’s activities, and information about bat houses, the festival will move to Terre Haute’s Dobbs Park for an evening barbecue and Bat Science Night with demonstrations of techniques used in bat research.

The event, co-sponsored by the Organization for Bat Conservation, will also include bat merchandise for sale. Admission to the Bat Festival is free, with a charge of $6 per person for the barbecue. More information about the festival is available at 1-800-276-7074.

Photos:
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Justin Boyles, a Ph.D. student in ecology and organismal biology at Indiana State University, examines a big brown bat in the university's North American Bat Research and Conservation. In recognition of his research on the hibernation of bats, Boyles is sole recipient of the 2007 Fellowship in Mammalogy from the American Society of Mammalogists.

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Ph.D. student Justin Boyles (left), and John Whitaker, professor of ecology and organismal biology and director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation at Indiana State University, examine a big brown bat. Boyles' research on the hibernation of bats has landed him a Fellowship in Mammalogy from the American Society of Mammalogists.

Contact: John Whitaker, professor of Ecology and Organismal Biology and director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation, Indiana State University, (812) 237-2383 or jwhitaker3@indstate.edu or Brianne Walters, research assistant, Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation, Indiana State University (812) 237-8294 or bwalters2@indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

Story Highlights

Research by Justin Boyles, a doctoral student in the department of ecology and organismal biology, is changing what scientists have thought about the hibernation of bats. In recognition of his research, Boyles has received a national fellowship from the American Society of Mammologists.

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