Malaysian Bat Conservation
The Malaysian Bat Conservation Research Unit (MBCRU) was established in 2001 to promote the conservation of Malaysia’s unique bat fauna through long term conservation research, capacity building and environmental education.
This project is a collaboration between scientists from the USA (Texas Tech University), Malaysia (University Kebangsaan Malaysia and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks) and has also been supported by the National Science Foundation (USA) and the National Geographical Society (USA). The mission of the unit includes long-term research on bat diversity and conservation, the development and acquisition of skills and resources in the host country, and the implementation of a local and web-based education program to highlight the diversity and biology of bats, as well as the international importance of Malaysia to bat conservation.
During the project fellows assist in surveying the bat communities (catching, identifying, banding bats), detailing roosting and foraging ecology (radio-tracking bats to roost sites, characterizing roosts, assessing roost availability), and characterizing and mapping the study sites so that roosting and foraging ecology can be related to species’ abundance and distribution patterns. Fellows also participate in the Education Research Initiative, helping to collate and assemble daily capture data for transmission back to the US partner elementary school (North Ridge Elementary, Lubbock, TX), and join in the weekly live video-conferencing sessions when the scientists interact directly with the students.
Participants have identified a number of benefits arising from their experiences at the project. Rahul Prabhukhanolkar, a student at the Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research in India, said “We all established a good relationship, and definitely we all will help each other in future to study bats”. Taufiq Purna Nugraha, a researcher with the Indonesia Institute of Scientists, pledged to“train several junior researchers in my institution with the knowledge I gained from this project”.
In addition to technical training and valuable new contacts, Tan Tu Vuong from the Institute of Ecology and Biological Research in Vietnam found the project offered another important learning opportunity: “I had a great chance to work with foreign experts to learn the most suitable ways in conducting bat conservation activities. I have established relationships with regional participants for further contacts to enhance my knowledge in the study and conservation of bats. I also have a great chance to improve my English, which is essentially helpful for my future career.”
Dr. Kingston was also extremely positive about the achievements of the team, commenting, “For me it was especially rewarding because I know that these young scientists will use what they have learned to further bat research in their home countries, and that’s what capacity building is all about!”
The South East Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit (SEABCRU) was created in 2007 and, with generous sponsorship from the British American Tobacco Biodiversity Partnership, provides for teams of young scientists from across SE Asia to join the Malaysia Bat Conservation Project for four weeks as interns. So far, 13 individuals have become interns and joined principal investigator Tigga Kingston and her team on the project as part of Earthwatch’s Capacity Development Programme.
SEABCRU fellows are a central component of SEABCRU’s capacity building program and in addition to participation in the long-term research conducted by the Malaysian Bat Conservation Research Unit, the program for interns includes a lecture series and practical sessions covering all aspects of bat research, conservation and outreach. The internships are intended to broaden the research experience and equip young scientists to contribute to the research priorities of the SEABCRU in their home country.
Chun Chia (Joe) Huang joined one of the teams as an intern in 2008 after meeting Dr Tigga Kingston at the first Southeast Asia Bat Conference in 2007. Joe found that as well as the practical research experience he gained during the project he improved his communication skills, which, along with species identification, he has found especially useful in his current work in Sumatra. Using these skills Joe went on to hold a mini workshop in cooperation with the University of Lampung (Indonesia) and Wildlife Conservation Society to teach local students bat research skills.
It was decided during the project in 2008 that Joe would join Dr. Kingston’s department at the Texas Tech University as a PhD student the following year. Dr. Kingston and Joe are now working on the conservation and ecology of bats in Bukit Barisan Seltan National Park (BBSBP), Sumatra.
Joe’s project is primarily focused on the impact of coffee plantations on bat species diversity, communities and ecological services carried out by bats in the BBSNP and surrounding areas. He hopes that this research will fill a gap in current knowledge on the bat biodiversity and during one month of fieldwork in the summer of 2010 he recorded 6 bat species that had not previously been found in Sumatra.
“I will try my best to transfer my knowledge and skills of bat research and the importance of biodiversity conservation to local students and young scientists.... I also hope I can apply the results of my study on the ecological services of bats to help local communities to understand the significance of bats and biodiversity, and would like to see them have the will to conserve them”
“The support from EWI directly builds capacity of young South East Asian bat biologists and conservationists to conduct research and conservation in their own countries. International interactions, networking, and exposure to new research methods make critical contributions to the development of early-career scientists such as the SEABCRU fellows. Their month-long participation in the research project provides a unique opportunity to experience all these components of success and encourages and equips the fellows to make major contributions to regional bat conservation”
Earthwatch PI, Malaysian Bats