Monday, August 18, 2014

A study on bats begins at IRRI

By Trina Leah Mendoza

IRRI researchers got their first taste of studying bats in rice field ecosystems in August as part of a collaborative research with Lawrence University, USA, and the University of the Philippine Los BaƱos (UPLB). The preliminary research aims to find out: (1) which bat species are foraging in IRRI rice fields, (2) whether bat and insect activity vary throughout the night, and (3) do Asian housebats (Scotophilus kuhlii), which are abundant in the Philippines, consume rice pests.

Jodi Sedlock, associate professor of biology at Lawrence University, who has been studying mammals in the Philippines since 1996, is interested in finding out if bats contribute to insect pest management, and in what way. Dr. Sedlock worked with researchers from the Animal Biology Division of UPLB along with research teams led by Dr. Alex Stuart, postdoctoral fellow with the Closing Rice Yield Gaps with Reduced Environmental Footprint Project, and Dr. Finbarr Horgan, IRRI entomologist, respectively.

The researchers sampled nocturnal insects and simultaneously monitored bat activity. They captured bats foraging over rice
fields and in nearby buildings, and collected fecal samples to check if their diet corresponded with the insects in the fields.

“We were pleasantly surprised to capture an orange-fingered Myotis, a beautiful but rarely captured bat, foraging over the IRRI rice fields.” Dr. Sedlock shares. “This finding underscores how little we know about rice ecosystems with respect to bats."

Results from the 2-week study will help guide further research and design of a longer-term project and in refining the methodology. “This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Dr. Sedlock. “I suspect that, as sampling continues, there will be more bat surprises coming from the rice fields of IRRI.”

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