BIO 315 Ecology and Conservation of California Bats

Start Date: Sunday, June 26, 2022
Instructor: Joe Szewczak
Fee: $395.00
Units: 1
Term: Summer 2022

Course Description

This course will train participants in techniques for assessing bats in their natural habitat. In the local area surrounding the Sierra Nevada Field Campus we can expect to encounter as many as 17 of California's 23 bat species (SNFC bat species list and Meadow Restoration and Bat monitoring). Participants will learn various contact and non-contact survey methods including mistnetting, acoustic surveys, and roost recognition and evaluation. We will cover the habitat requirements and special considerations for individual species with an emphasis on conservation, management, and mitigation strategies. The course will develop an understanding of bat biology as a foundation for understanding the special environmental needs of bats. The class will meet in a seminar format to involve all students in developing principle concepts from readings and discussions. However, much of the learning will be in the field to provide a hands-on learning experience with the goal of developing discriminating techniques of data collection and analysis. The course will focus on preparing personnel engaged in wildlife management roles, but remains open to anyone with an interest in bat natural history and wildlife biology.

Rabies vaccination is not a requirement for taking this course, but it is a requirement if you wish to participate in handling live bats. If you think you might ever handle live bats, or any other wild mammal, we encourage you to go ahead and get vaccinated as it provides an essentially lifetime immunization (authorities recommend a titer check every two years). The procedure involves a series of three injections over a month (plan ahead) costs vary depending upon your health plan. The injections are similar to a tetanus shot. To handle bats, proof of vaccination is required by the time the course convenes.

If you were previously vaccinated for rabies, unless you have already done so within the past year, we recommend that you get your rabies titer checked to confirm your protection. This link provides resources that you can give to your health care provider if they do not already know how to check your rabies titer. Request RFFIT endpoint for the most informative result.

bat on gloved hand
Joe Szewczak

Instructor Bio

Joe Szewczak, B.S.E. (1980) Duke University, Ph.D. (1991) Brown University, is a Professor at Cal Poly Humboldt. His prior research investigated the extraordinary physiological capabilities of bats and other small mammals, from cold torpor to the intense demands of flight and high altitude, and the physiological ecology of bats, the integrated effects of the environment upon the organism. He documented that hibernating bats can go without breathing for two and a half hours, and determined the mechanism by which they accomplish such a feat. Much of his current focus has sought to improve non-invasive recognition of bats and birds and this lead him to develop SonoBat and SonoBird software to analyze and interpret bat and bird vocalization. Dr. Szewczak has taught bat field courses and workshops for more than two decades throughout the country and abroad. Learn more about Joe here or contact him:

Course Details

Course Schedule

Plan to arrive at the Sierra Nevada Field Campus on Sunday evening for dinner at 6.00pm. We will begin the class Monday morning, but thereafter we will meet mid-morning and the afternoons for class work, then spend our evenings in the field, typically past midnight. Class will conclude by Friday noonish.

Access to our survey sites will entail short hikes of a mile or less, sometimes over irregular terrain.

Grading: Students desiring a grade may take a written exam on the final class meeting.

Supplies List

  • As much of our experience together will be nocturnal, dependable sources of light will be essential. To keep your hands free, we recommend a good head lamp with one or more back-up lights that you can pocket, such as a mini headlamp, or one you could hold in your teeth should your primary light fail. The Black Diamond Icon and Petzl Duo are good choices because they have both a low beam for close work and high beam for checking the nets at a distance.
  • Batteries; rechargeable Li-ion batteries work wonders and reduce waste
  • A bright spot light for checking nets and foraging bats will augment your head lamp, but is not essential.
  • For handling bats, we will use nitrile gloves as per White Nose Syndrome protocol. Some people may still prefer more protection until they gain more skill handling bats. If so, then select thin, supple leather gloves - find a pair that fits your hand well and lets you retain your dexterity; the thinner the leather the better to afford dexterity. Some driving gloves work nicely.
  • As many of our netting sites span water, hip waders make trips into the stream more pleasant on cool nights, but any other foot gear (and pants) that you don't mind getting wet will do fine (if you don't mind getting cold!); but we don't recommend this approach.
  • Also bring binoculars, a notebook, day pack, water bottle, and any other gear you typically carry with you in the field.


Nights near the Field Campus can often approach freezing, and even relatively mild nights seem cold when sitting in wait for bats. So bring plenty warm gear, sweaters, gloves, hats, rain gear, and long underwear to provide a variety of layering options to "suit" the conditions.


  • day pack
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellant
  • alarm clock
  • water bottles
  • plastic containers for packed lunches


A compiled notebook of readings will be prepared for each student. Please be expected to help support the copying costs of this notebook, which should come to about $35.

A good read for a general overview of bats and their behavior:

For the serious-minded, a book with something about everything to do with bats:

We will have most of these books (and other materials) available during the class.

Lodging and Camping Supplies

Camping gear if you are staying on campus:

  • tent and sleeping pad (unless you are staying in our tent with a cot provided)
  • warm sleeping bag
  • pillow, toiletries, and towel
  • flashlight and lantern
  • alarm clock

Field gear for everyone:

  • day pack
  • sunscreen
  • insect repellant
  • water bottles
  • plastic containers for packed lunches
  • sense of humor

You might also want to bring:

  • camera
  • binoculars
  • hand lens
  • camp chair


The weather in the Sierra Nevada can vary greatly, even in a single day. Be prepared for chilly temperatures at night, even below freezing early in the summer. Rain is a possibility any time, whether forecast or not. Variable weather clothing that can be layered is best: long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, warm sweater and jacket, t-shirt and shorts or skirt, sturdy shoes or hiking boots, sun hat, rain gear, and a warm hat or gloves for cold weather and/or night activities. And, if you come later in the season, bring your swimsuit for afternoon dips in the lakes!

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