Issue 2
Monday, 13 March 2017
Charles Darwin University
 Caption: A Hill’s sheathtail bat in Central Australia. Image: Erin Westerhuis
Caption: A Hill’s sheathtail bat in Central Australia. Image: Erin Westerhuis

PhD student to reveal secret lives of bats

By Patrick Nelson

Environmental science student Erin Westerhuis will share her knowledge of Central Australia’s mysterious microbats as the sun sets behind Simpsons Gap near Alice Springs this Friday evening [March 17].

Erin said the event was part of the Australasian Bat Society’s community bat nights held between March and May each year.

“We can expect to see white striped freetail bats, gould's wattled bats, inland broadnosed bats and inland forest bats, all of which fly around our river red gum woodlands,” she said.

“Just last week I saw an inland forest bat at Simpsons Gap while undertaking survey work in relation to my research project.

“These are among the smallest of the 13 microbat species known in Central Australia. This one weighed just 3.6 grams, less than a teaspoon of sugar.”

Erin said she would set up a harp trap to catch bats and demonstrate the use of an acoustic recorder, a device used for making distinctions between various species.

“I’ll talk about their daytime hiding spots, and about echolocation, the inbuilt high frequency sonar they use to fly at night to find beetles, moths and other food.”

Erin is part way through a PhD project focussing on the birds and bats that live among Central Australia’s river red gums.

The community bat night will be hosted by the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the NT at the school campground area of Simpsons Gap in Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park on Friday 17 March from 5pm. Erin will give her talk about 6.30pm.