Halloween may be over for another year, but citizen scientists can still help their professional peers better understand these nocturnal creatures by listening to recordings and identifying different bat calls. The goal is to use citizen-science classifications to create software that researchers worldwide can use to extract information from bat recordings, making it really easy to track bat populations. This will make understanding how bat populations are being effected by global change much easier.

Bat Detective begins its journey in Europe and, over the course of the project will release data from more areas from around the world. In Europe, there are more than 40 species of bats, and all use echolocation to eat insects. Most species hibernate to escape the food shortage in insects during the winter. Others migrate to other parts of Europe during winter, but very little is known about which species do this. In the summer, most species split into separate female and male roosts (in buildings, tree cavities, under bridges, caves), where the males just chill out whilst the females busily gather insects to raise their baby. During the autumn the males and females come back together again to mate and then don’t emerge again until the next spring.

Many believe that monitoring the status of bat populations can help tell us about the health of a natural environment as a whole; the bats serve as an early warning, like a canary in a coal mine. This is because bat species are distributed all over the world, and provide lots of services to humans through controlling pests by eating vast quantities of insects and pollinating and dispersing commercially important crops (for example bananas, tequila).

Bat Detective is a partnership project between University College London, Zoological Society of London, The Bat Conservation Trust, BatLife Europe, University of Auckland, and the Citizen Science Alliance.