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University of Cincinnati, Ohio Natural Resources Department want to count your bats

A small bat clings to a concrete wall on a January afternoon.
Bill Rinehart
A small bat clings to the side of a concrete wall outside the WVXU studios on a January afternoon. The photo has been turned on its side.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources is looking for bats. More precisely, they're looking for people who know where bats live, for a census and monitoring project.

University of Cincinnati Professor Joe Johnson is working on the study. He says they're looking to build partnerships. "We'll come out. We'll take a look, identify them, collect some basic information about the sites, such as the number of animals that are there, the species, the kind of structure that they're in," he says. "And then it's really a matter of the individual landowners interest in working with us."

Johnson says the study is a reaction to the spread of white nose syndrome, a fungal disease. "Since the fungus arrived in North America, around 2005, it's caused the loss of millions of bats throughout the United States and Canada."

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Some bat species are either up for consideration or in the process of being added to the endangered species list.

Johnson says researchers want to monitor colonies on a long term basis. "So that when something happens, (or) there's a change in the environment that causes populations to decline, we know right away and we can help try and come up with whatever the applied science might be to address that issue."

The project isn't about removing bats from someone's attic, or anything like that, Johnson says. "We're not going to show up, and say 'Oh, you've got this rare bat, you have to now dedicate your barn to their preservation.' That's not what we're interested in doing," he says. "What we're interested in doing is making partnerships with landowners, interested in meeting them, and trying to help them learn more about the wildlife that lives on their property."

From a "purely economic point of view," Johnson says, "bats do us a lot of services. Bats are important predators of insects in Ohio. They'll eat a lot of economically damaging pest species."

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He says more important, bats are beautiful animals.

Johnson is an assistant professor of information technology at UC. He says while many people might not make an immediate connection between IT and wildlife, he's focused on using technological tools to solve problems like threats to biodiversity.

Property owners interested in participating can email Johnson at

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.