Tania C. Parra

Tania C. Parra

Tuesday, 25 June 2019 21:45

Learning how to handle bats!

When my supervisor asked me if I would be comfortable handling bats I very quickly and excitedly answered “YES!”

I have always enjoyed seeing these mysterious creatures flying around my campsites at dusk. As a birder, I would rush to grab my binoculars hoping to make out their features against the night sky. I would think, “If I could just see them for one second I’m sure I can ID them!” Of course in the lowlight this never worked… In the last few weeks, however, I have learned the necessary skills to capture bats, identify them, and take data on their sex, size, and weight. Being able to closely examine bats has allowed me to see and admire the unique morphology of each species, no binoculars necessary!

So how does it work? Well, we use mist nets. These nets are used by both ornithologists and bat biologists to capture individuals. They are very thin, lightweight and difficult to see in the dark. We attach them to two different poles and extend them out in an area where we predict bats will fly over then we patiently wait for one to get caught. Getting them out of the net can be tricky. You have to wear latex gloves to prevent the possible spread of pd (the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome) and in one hand you have to wear a leather glove to protect you from possible bites. Of course, the bats don’t come out without a fight and if you’re not careful they can fly out of your hand if you aren't holding them correctly (it has happened to me twice!)

Once they are out of the net we measure the length of their forearm and ear, we determine the species and sex, we weight them, and we let them go! I always compare them to kittens (if you have held kittens you will understand) their small nails are like velcro, they are squirmy trying to get out of your hand, and they very loudly let you know they don't want to be held. I have to say this is my favorite part of the internship!

Tuesday, 25 June 2019 21:42

Why are bats so important?

As a biology assistant intern, I will be helping the bat crew collect important data on the distribution and abundance of bats!
 
Bats are incredible little critters, they are a very valuable species that play a big role in keeping the insect population in check. Out of the 150 different species of bats found in North America about 70% are insectivores. Their appetite helps farmers across the world and it is estimated that in the United States they provide about $4 billion - $53 billion worth of pest control!! They also provide nutrients to other cave dwellers and pollinate some plants. Unfortunately, over the last 13 years, their numbers have decreased drastically due to something called White-nose syndrome. WNS is caused by a fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans or PD for short) that affects hibernating bats. It grows in areas like the nose and wings and wakes the bats up, this results in the bats using up fat reserves and dying because they can’t find food.
 
As of right now, the fungus is only found on the east coast and the state of Washington. Unfortunately, biologist predicts that the fungus will spread to the entire United States. In order to prepare biologists have begun a nationwide effort to monitor bats, resulting in a program called NAbat (A Plan for the North American Bat Monitoring Program). The purpose of this program is to collect data on the abundance and distribution of bats in the US. This is done by recording bats while they are active at night in the summer months and by counting hibernating bats in the winter. This data will help scientist make decisions on how to best protect bats in the future.
 
I will be helping my team by setting up acoustic recorders in different grid cells throughout the park, collecting swab samples from certain species of bats to ensure they do not have the pd fungus, and capturing bats to understand the species diversity in the park. At the end of my internship, I will be speaking at the annual Bat Festival in Page, Arizona and all are welcome to join us!
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 23:40

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

On May 11, I packed my car and drove for seven hours to the deserts of Arizona. I had seen pictures of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area before but nothing would have prepared me for the immense beauty that would welcome me as I drove into Page. The red rock that is so characteristic of this part of the country frames the Colorado river in a way that makes you stop your car and forget that you have to check in to your housing in 10 minutes!

Page is a small town located on the border of Utah and Arizona. It is surrounded by both federal lands (NPS, BLM) and tribal lands (Navajo Nation, San Juan Southern Paiute) and it's where you will find the headquarters of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (GCNRA from now on). Most of my work, however, will be deep in the backcountry of the 1.2 million acres managed by the GCNRA. The park lies within the Colorado Plateau and it is composed of bluffs, mesas, buttes and canyons. With in the landscape you can find a diversity of wildlife, spectacular flowers, fossils, and evidence of the indigenous folk who called this place home for thousands of years.

Temperatures around here reach the triple digits, but the Colorado River and Lake Powell with their cold water provide a break from the heat to the residents and tourist of Coconino county. With its endless dirt roads, waterways, and trails I cannot wait to explore the area and fall in love (some more) with this place.

Tuesday, 04 June 2019 22:56

Pursuing my Childhood Dreams

Growing up in southern California I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by public lands. Whether it was National Forests, National Parks, or State Parks the outdoors were never too far. This was heaven for me, as a child I was fascinated by the natural world and having access to these places allowed me to feed my curiosity and learn about the flora and fauna of my home state.

 
After graduating from high school I went on to get a degree in ecology and I’m currently working on getting my master’s degree in environmental science. My life’s goal is to work in the field of conservation biology to protect and preserve at risk species, doing so with the Park Service is my childhood dream and I am beyond excited to get started!
Wednesday, 15 May 2019 14:48

Tania Parra Ramirez

Hola! Yo me llamo Tania, I was born in Mexico City and moved to California with my mom when I was 9 years old. Growing up in California I was fortunate enough to spend my summers traveling to Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park with my family. It was there that my love for ecology was born. I would spend hours learning about the plants and animals that lived there and I was always in awe of the park rangers that worked there. I made a promise to myself that one day I would be a park ranger too! After high school I decided to pursue a career in science, I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology and I am currently working on getting my master’s degree in environmental science. I can’t wait to learn new skills this summer and continue on my path to achieve my childhood dreams.