Library class urges community members to go to bat for Oklahoma bats

(STILLWATER, OKLA. / October 10, 2017) –– Gone are the days when bats were considered a frightening Halloween-time menace, out for blood. Today, most people understand that bats are an important part of the environment, dispersing seeds, pollinating plants and serving to control pests like mosquitoes. These little helpers now need the help of humans to survive. Millions of bats have died from modern threats like wind turbines and outbreaks of a deadly fungus.

On Sunday, Oct. 29, at 2 p.m., OSU’s Dr. Karen McBee and graduate student Rachel Ritchie will visit the Stillwater Public Library to share information about these fascinating creatures, why they are important and how humans can help them thrive.

McBee, Curator of Vertebrates and Professor of Zoology in the Department of Integrative Biology at OSU, is a big fan of bats.

“I caught my first bat in 1977 while a student in Biology and Museum Science at Texas Tech University and I’ve continued to be fascinated by them ever since,” said McBee.

“Because bats are the second largest group of mammals they provide lots of interesting questions, but mostly I love bats because they are so important to healthy environments and because they eat mosquitos and pollenate fruit crops.”

McBee completed her Ph.D. at Texas A&M where she worked with a multi-university team of researchers to net and study bats in Thailand. 

She then worked as the Rea Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Section of Mammals at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she studied the relationships of African bats. 

McBee continued to conduct research on bats and to train undergraduates and graduate students to work with bats since coming to OSU in 1987.

Ritchie is a graduate student studying Integrative Biology at OSU. As part of McBee's lab, Ritchie is developing a Master's Thesis project about bats in eastern Oklahoma and the spread of white-nose syndrome.  The fungus has killed over 5.5 million bats in North America since its identification in 2006.

The library has several of the books McBee suggests people interested in bats should read. Those items and several other books will be on display and available for check out in the main part of the library. Titles include:

  • “Bats: A World of Science and Mystery” by M. Brock Fenton and Nancy B. Simmons
  • “The Secret Lives of Bats: My Adventures with the World’s Most Misunderstood Mammals” by Merlin Tuttle
  • “Bats of Oklahoma Field Guide” by Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (located online)

The library also has a copy of “The Bat House Builder’s Handbook” by Merlin Tuttle, Mark Kiser and Selena Kiser. The volume provides information and diagrams for building and hosting a bat houses. One lucky attendee of the Oct. 29 program will win their own bat houses provided by the Friends of the Stillwater Public Library.

“Backyarding with Bats” is a free program open to older children, teens and adults. To attend, please register on the libraries webpage at http://library.stillwater.org. For more information about the program, contact the library Help Desk at 405.372.3633 x8106 or askalibrarian@stillwater.org.

The Stillwater Public Library is located at 1107 S. Duck St. (the corner of Duck and 12th Ave.).