What do you do?
As a bat conservationist, I use science (both natural and social) to study how to protect bat species around the world, and then I work with people to implement conservation projects. I have worked with bats in Texas (where I built and put up bat houses and studied which type of house different bat species preferred), Australia (where I studied a Critically Endangered bat species), and Georgia (where I have led bat house projects and educational campaigns for our local bats). My current PhD research is in northeast Mexico, where I’m working with the conservation of an endangered pollinating bat, the Mexican long-nosed bat. I am working with local communities to start community agave restoration programs to provide food resources (agave nectar) for the bats.
I study the feeding behavior of the bats to figure out exactly what they need, and I also use methods from the social sciences, like anthropology, to interview landowners and learn how we can work together to promote bat conservation and community livelihoods. My job involves a lot of field work, which means being outside a lot! I often get to stay up all night watching bats or trying to catch them!
I am also an environmental educator and science communicator. This means I give lots of talks to the public about bats and the importance of protecting them, and I lead bat walks and bat house building workshops. I try to make bat conservation fun and reachable for everyone, so in all my outreach I teach about how we can all help bats!
Why did you choose this field?
I’ve always rooted for the underdog, and to me bats are a real underdog in the animal world. Many people either misunderstand them or are afraid of them. I realized I could do something to change that and that I could show people that bats are not only SUPER important for our ecosystems and economies, but they are also REALLY cool! So in 6th grade I decided to build and put up bat houses in a park in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio for my Girl Scout Silver Award project. Ever since then I knew bat conservation is my life calling, and I’m excited that I can have a career protecting bats!
What do you look at and think, "I wish younger me would have known this was possible"?
I recently gave a talk about my research for National Geographic in Washington, DC. National Geographic is an organization that I have loved and admired since I was a kid. If someone would have told me that someday I would be giving a talk there, I wouldn’t have believed them!
Why do you love working in STEM?
Working in STEM has given me an avenue to keep digging in the dirt and following my love of nature! Not every job pays you to go outside and explore and learn about animals. I’ve gotten to crawl through caves and up mounds of bat guano, and I get to use some high-tech equipment, like night vision cameras and acoustic detectors! I also LOVE sharing my passion with others!
Best advice for next generation?
It’s never too early to get started! If you’re interested in a certain field, look for opportunities to volunteer or talk to someone in that field. Find other women who inspire you and reach out to them! We have all had struggles, and with support from each other we can better learn how to overcome those struggles.
And always be yourself. Don’t let others dictate what you “can” or “should” do based on who you identify as. Do what you feel is right, and don’t be afraid to be seen as a little “weird”! It’s your life and your career, so make it yours!
Inspo quote / fun fact / role model
I love to watch cute animal videos on Instagram! Also, I’m a Lifetime Member of Girl Scouts!