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Hanscom participates in bat species survey

Scott Sheehan, 66th Civil Engineering Division environmental engineer, inspects a bat monitor located at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., July 26. Members of the 66th Civil Engineering Division Environmental Office are assisting the Air Force Civil Engineer Center with a 90-day bat species diversity survey on the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

Scott Sheehan, 66th Civil Engineering Division environmental engineer, inspects a bat monitor located at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., July 26. Members of the 66th Civil Engineering Division Environmental Office are assisting the Air Force Civil Engineer Center with a 90-day bat species diversity survey on the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Mark Herlihy)

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. – 66th Civil Engineering Division environmental officials here are assisting the Air Force Civil Engineer Center with a 90-day bat species diversity survey on the installation.

The work is part of a conservation compliance survey that will run through early September for bats listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.

Conducting the survey on behalf of AFCEC is the University of Montana’s Center for Integrated Research on the Environment, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Omaha District in Nebraska. UM-CIRE’s focus includes research and sustainable management of natural and cultural resources. They often work in collaboration with the Department of Defense and other federal and state agencies.

“The scope of work calls for us to listen for any and all species of bats, categorize them and provide each base with an inventory list of the species that we heard,” said Austin Blank, UM-CIRE logistics and coordination officer who is participating in the project.

Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, is among 48 U.S. Air Force properties participating in the survey, which includes Sagamore Hill in Hamilton, Mass., Fourth Cliff Recreation Area in Humarock, Mass., Cape Cod Air Force Station in Flatrock Hill, Mass., and New Boston Air Force Station in New Hampshire.

According to CE officials, the bat monitor runs on a battery system and contains 256 gigabytes of storage. They record continuously for 90 nights and default to a standby mode during daytime. Additionally, the monitors are unobtrusive and should not cause any concern for residents.

“University of Montana officials use acoustic monitoring of bats at night in five locations on the installation to detect their presence,” said Scott Sheehan, 66th Civil Engineering Division environmental engineer. “The survey will also determine if the endangered northern long-eared bat that is common in this part of the country is present.”

Since Hanscom is a potential habitat for the northern long-eared bat or other possible endangered species, CE officials an obligation to know if there are any protected species.

In the event that a threatened or endangered bat species is located, or the survey indicates a strong possibility of a threatened or endangered species, survey officials will notify the installation.

“If we hear the northern long-eared bat or any other endangered species, we will provide a biological assessment first, and a management plan,” Blank said.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, the white-nose syndrome disease is reducing populations of the northern long-eared bat. As a result, the species was included as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2015.

Once the survey is complete, AFCEC and base officials will receive a report detailing the survey efforts and results.

“Bats communicate in ultrasonic frequencies and these devices are triggered when they hear an ultrasonic frequency,” Blank said. “Through software analysis, you can tell what species is in that area. With the duration of the study, we should have a pretty high degree of certainty what species are located at Hanscom and other installations.”

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, bats are important to the ecology and economy by eating insects at night, which provides a natural benefit to farmers and foresters.

According to Sheehan, Hanscom participated in a similar plant and wildlife study more than 20 years ago.

For further information, contact Sheehan at 781-225-6144.