The associations Bioteka and Tragus have launched the project entitled “Citizen-scientists: supporting the bat population in the area of the upper and middle course of the Krka River” financed by the Public Institute of Krka National Park.
The projected is intended to secure new, alternative habitats for bats and for monitoring the state of the bat population. With the help of the local population in the areas surrounding the Krka River, the associations Bioteka and Tragus plan to build 20 bat shelters and install them at locations in the study area.
The project is aimed at promoting the concept of civil science, which includes amateurs in scientific and professional activities led by trained persons. Civil-scientists will collect data on bats during the project in their local areas, and submit the data to the experts for further processing. The bats of the Krka River will be studied by 15 institutions and civilian groups (primary schools, public institutions, volunteer fire brigades, hikers, etc.) from the areas of the towns of Knin and Drniš and the municipalities of Promina, Kistanje and Ervenik. Through their example and work, the civil-scientists will promote the development of volunteerism in their local communities.
Supporting the bat population, as one of the exceptionally significant and most threatened groups of mammals, is of great importance at both the local and the global level. One of the biggest threats bats face is habitat loss. Intensive cutting of old trees, which bats can inhabit, or the unnecessary use of non-selective insecticides, are increasingly threatening the survival of bats. For that reason, civil-scientists will install the shelters at locations that meet the habitat needs of bats.
Civil-scientists received basic information on the project and about bats during a two-day educational workshop held at the branch office of the Public Institute of Krka National Park in Drniš on 28–29 January 2017. This education included topics such as conservation biology (practical examples of protecting bats and managing and monitoring their populations, information on the benefits bats provide, etc.), the impacts of urbanisation on bats and bat behaviour (diet, hunting, migration). In the next workshop, to be held in late February, the bat shelters will be built, and training provided on the methods of data collection and submitting data to the expert team.
During spring 2017, several field visits will be made to collect data on the shelters and their inhabitants. In this way, the civil-scientists will be included in the scientific and expert work, and in caring for the local environment and nature. They will learn about ecosystem services, which are the benefits bats provide to people, and learn more about how bats feed, hunt, migrate and use echolocation.
In June 2017, the expert team will visit all the shelter localities and will begin processing and interpreting the data that will be published. All the results of this project will be presented at the final project event, to be held at the Krka National Park.