To the Bat Cave! Exploring to Save a Species

When I was in 6th grade planning my Girl Scout Silver Award project, I knew I wanted to do something to help animals, so I came up with the perfect idea! I was going to build and install bat houses in a local park. I was quite apprehensive at the beginning of the project since I was never the most mechanically-inclined growing up and very nervous around power tools. Despite my self-doubt, I spent an afternoon with my mom (who was also my troop leader), dad and grandpa assembling the houses and climbing up a ladder to install them in the park. I was immensely proud of building something with my own hands that could help bats.

That first experience working with bats as a 12-year-old propelled me into a career in bat conservation. I went on to study Zoology at Ohio Wesleyan University, where I got my first hands-on research experience with bats when I worked as a field assistant for a bat project in Texas. I put the skills I learned as a Girl Scout to good use when I built 18 bat houses for my honors research studies, identifying species' preferences in bat house design.

One day I drove to the local plumbing and pipe store in the tiny rural town where we were working, in search of 21 foot-long galvanized steel poles to install the houses on. When I got there, I received many skeptical looks and comments explaining that I would need special equipment to transport and install the poles. Because I was a woman, and quite young, my abilities to carry out this type of work were doubted. Of course, I had a lot of help from the farmer I was working with for my project, but I wanted to show everyone, as well as myself, that I belonged there doing this kind of work.