Bloomington resident receives first scholarship to study bats
Source: The Herald-Times, Bloomington, IN
April 27, 2008
It's spring, and Laura Hohman is busy researching bat
And she needs your help.
Hohman is the first recipient of a $1,000 scholarship at
Indiana State University given to a graduate student
studying in the school's Center for North American Bat
Research and Conservation.
"I'm looking at existing bat houses across Indiana,"
Hohman said. She's looking for both successful and
unsuccessful houses. She wants to discover which bat
species use the houses and why the houses work or don't
In fact, she and the director of the ISU bat center, John
Whitaker, disagree about what species of bats are most
likely to use bat houses in Indiana.
Hohman thinks its big brown bats. Whitacker, author of
"Mammals of Indiana," believes more little brown bats use
Hoosier bat houses.
One reason Hohman believes there are more big brown bats
in bat houses is because that's the species that set up a
maternity colony in the bat house at her home south of
"I saw the pups," she said. "Actually, I heard the pups
first." Hohman said there were 20 or more females with
their babies in her bat house that has several chambers.
Each female usually has two pups, so there were lots of
bats in Hohman's backyard.
"They were big browns, hence my assertion," Hohman stated.
But she's looking for observations from other bat houses
and has sent out scores of e-mails requesting information
about bat houses across the state. So far, she's received
She hopes to spend the next few months researching various
bat houses, looking at the types used by the bats, the
direction the houses are facing, the color of the house
and evaluating how big the houses are.
Hohman said it's best to put up bat houses that are
larger, so the bats can move from chamber to chamber to
keep a constant body temperature. She said the houses in
Indiana are used mainly in the spring and summer.
Hohman suspects some bats may change houses during the
spring and summer and hopes to look for those houses and
determine why they move. Her goal is to select a subset of
the bat houses she learns about and monitor those houses
in an intensive way, checking on them frequently to see
the level of activity and number of bats using the houses.
She has one year to do the research. She's hoping to do
the fieldwork this summer and start analyzing the data
"The more information I can get about bat houses, the
better," Hohman said. She said anyone with a bat house can
determine the relative number of bats by watching for the
tell-tale signs of guano on the ground underneath the
Then, at dusk, people can count the emerging bats to get
an accurate number of adult bats in the house.
If there are pups in the house, Hohman said you will hear
them "cheeping, sort of like birds."
About the scholarship
The $1,000 scholarship Laura Hohman received is funded by
the Indiana State University Foundation, with money from
Critter Catchers, an animal control business in
Ortonville, Mich. Owner Dave Kugler said he picked ISU for
the scholarship because "the ISU bat center consists of
the largest group of bat biologists in North America. The
scholarship is a way for Critter Catchers to support the
center and participate in the expansion of our
understanding of many of the bats that are common in the
A large part of the company's job is to educate its
customers, Kugler said. Hohman's research will be able to
help Critter Catchers and others to know how to better locate houses for bats.