Bocas del Toro Research Station

Research Projects

Dr. Maurice Thomas

Professor Maurice Thomas
maurice_thomas@pba.edu
Biology Department, Palm Beach Atlantic University
Bats play a pivotal role in ecosystems worldwide. Some neotropical bats contribute through insectivory, pollination, and seed dispersal.

The availability of day roosts can be a limiting factor in maintaining healthy bat populations. Dark or shady refuges where bats can sleep, socialize, and raise young in relative safety from predators include tree cavities, hollow logs, leaf tents, termite nests, caves, crevices, and buildings. Habitat destruction can reduce roost availability, limit food resources, and generally alter the diversity and ecology of the local bat fauna. The evergreen forests on the major islands of the Bocas del Toro Province have undergone major distubances related to subsistence farming, banana plantations, cattle ranching, residencial development, commerce, and tourism. Smithsonian expeditions from 1987-1993 have revealed a depauperate bat fauna on the islands, possibly due to the reduction in available roosting sites. Of the surviving species, many are ubiquitous, opportunistic bats that tolerate a certain degree of habitat disturbance. Some of these species roost in the numerous limestone caves on the islands.

The primary objectives of this study are to:

  1. Locate caves on Isla Colon and Isla Bastimentos and identify the bat species that utilize them as day roosts.
  2. Observe roosting preferences and behavior of bats within the caves.
  3. Mark some bats for observations on roost fidelity, reproduction, growth, etc.
  4. Record the relative abundance of cave-roosting bats over time.
  5. Network with local government agencies and tourism personnel concerning future efforts toward bat conservation.

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