Chasing Bats at Congaree NP

Astonishing biodiversity exists in Congaree National Park, the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees.

-National Park Service

It’s all a part of the plan

Southeastern myotis

Now that I finished my bachelor’s degree, what’s next? Well, I’ve discovered that as an aspiring wildlife biologist/ecologist, an advanced degree will be necessary to secure the jobs that I want. Hence, I am often asked about the direction I want to take with a master’s degree. Honestly, I don’t know. Therefore, as a self-proclaimed generalist, I figured that the prudent course is to gain more experience before going back to school. In the time between now and then, I will get my hands dirty, experience new species, and ponder the many challenges that face our natural world.

Bat Telemetry Technician

Me at Cooner’s Cattle Mound

Hired by Clemson University, I worked with Piper Kimpel as a bat telemetry technician, where I supported her research in Congaree National Park. One evening per week, Piper and I would net specifically for the Southeastern myotis. We would work up our captured bats by taking measurements, inspecting wings for damage and the indication of White-nose Syndrome, and affix a wing band. Prior to release, we would also affix a transmitter on two of the larger individuals. Primarily a solo gig, during the week, I would track our “transmittered” bats using radio telemetry and inspect tree cavity roosts throughout Congaree. Additionally, I would deploy and maintain passive acoustic and telemetry gear in the field that would collect data without either of us being around.

The Experience

Admiring a Southeastern myotis

Congaree provided many new experiences that I wouldn’t have found in Pennsylvania. This was the first time that I worked with the Southeastern myotis or saw a Seminole bat. Prior to this job, I never wrapped a mist net around a tree (intentionally) or caught bats with a butterfly net (unheard of). Unless I had to leave early, a netting night would never end before ten. Speaking of communal living, until this point, I never lived in a dorm or had roommates for that matter. I enjoyed seeing many species for the first time, learning new methodology, and exploring a new ecosystem – an old growth bottomland forest.

The Takeaway

Piper and Will

You never know where you may find yourself and you do not know what kind of an impact the next chapter will have on you. For me, I discovered the beauty of the floodplain and solidified my love of working with bats. Working with a new species, learning new methods, and discovering the natural history and present day challenges of a new ecosystem opened my mind to new possibilities in my own career. Oh, and I made some new friends too!

Autumn in Congaree National Park

I immediately fell in love with the floodplain; in a couple of months, I began to call it home. Walking among the large trees was new to me and I was humbled by their presence. I wished that they could tell me the history of Congaree – the days of moonshine and escape from slavery.