What's in endangered bat poop?

$2,921
Raised of $2,800 Goal
104%
Funded on 11/07/19
Successfully Funded
  • $2,921
    pledged
  • 104%
    funded
  • Funded
    on 11/07/19

About This Project

JP / EN

The Ryukyu tube-nosed bat and Yanbaru whiskered bat are two endangered bats that only exist in the remaining forests of three islands in the Ryukyu Archipelago, Japan. However, we don't know enough about these bats to design conservation strategies for them. I will extract and analyze the DNA from 50 previously collected bat poop samples from Okinawa. The DNA will tell us what the bats are eating, which in turn will tell us where they are eating, and therefore where to protect.

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What is the context of this research?

The lack of even basic information required to guide recovery of the Ryukyu tube-nosed and Yanbaru whiskered bats is what drew me to study these mysterious mammals. Although there have been surveys on Tokunoshima and Amami-Oshima, Okinawa received no attention after the initial discovery of these species there in 1996. My capture of a Yanbaru whiskered bat on Okinawa was the first reported from the island in 22 years! After two years of tracking the Yanbaru whiskered bat and Ryukyu tube-nosed bat on Okinawa, I have figured out that these bats roost mainly in tree holes and understory leaves, respectively. In the process of catching bats for tracking, I collected their poop. Using this poop, I now want to provide the first information on what these bats eat.

What is the significance of this project?

Bats are hugely important predators of insects, with insectivorous bats able to eat over half of their body weight in insects a night! However, we day-walking humans don't always notice the contribution or plight of nocturnal bats. Though not bat-focused, there is currently a strong push to designate the forests of the Ryukyu Archipelago as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site, and efforts are being made to improve the management of native ecosystems. Now is therefore the perfect opportunity to advocate for the conservation of historically unnoticed native bats. If I can present decision-makers with information on these bats, including a description of their diet, this will go a long way in getting their recovery included as a goal for future forest management.

What are the goals of the project?

The goal of this project is to extract and analyze DNA from already collected poop samples to figure out what Okinawa’s endangered bats eat and thus, where they eat. By determining what types of prey are in the poop of the Ryukyu tube-nosed bat and Yanbaru whiskered bat, I can deduce what habitats are important to the conservation of these mysterious furry flyers. I will also be able to answer interesting questions such as: “do Ryukyu tube-nosed bats really feed on the ground?” or “Are streams critical foraging grounds for the Yanbaru whiskered bat?” Finally, not only will my results be presented to the scientific and local communities, the results of my investigations will be used as the basis for conservation recommendations for these species.

Budget

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Although the cost of genetic analysis has reduced greatly in the last couple decades, it is still a lot of money. I was very grateful to receive grants that supported me through the long field trips to Okinawa needed to track the Ryukyu tube-nosed and Yanbaru whiskered bats, but sadly, I do not have enough funding yet to complete my dietary analysis, the last stage of my PhD work. Your support will be used to purchase the supplies needed to pull out and interpret as much information (DNA) as possible out of the humble brown rice grain-sized bat poops I have collected in the Okinawan forest.

Endorsed by

This important work will yield unique data on the diet of these two rare, and little-studied bat species (classified as Endangered and Critically Endangered by IUCN) that have very limited distribution. Knowing what they eat will provide insights into the kinds of habitat they feed in, and therefore what needs to be protected to ensure their survival. Jason is a very able and highly-motivated student doing important work for wildlife conservation - help him add this piece to the jigsaw by supporting it!
The project is of critical importance, not only for the target species in urgent need of research to guide conservation policies, but also to motivate further research on threatened bats of Okinawa. With enough resource, this study will become an example for research on other islands. Jason is a great, motivated researcher with delightful personality. Contributing to his project will help him strive towards his personal goal to gain scientific skills that he will apply in the future to contribute to the conservation of his home islands, Hawaii.
This is an extremely important and exciting project! Without in depth knowledge of diet, and thus foraging habits and ranges, protection of threatened species becomes challenging to say the least! The proposed methodology will provide the required insights and thus a better fighting chance for these endangered bats. The team could not be more qualified. Jason was the person who rediscovered one of these two species after it went undetected for over 20 years! If anyone is going to create a brighter future for these bats, it will be him.

Flag iconProject Timeline

DNA extraction from the bat feces will begin as soon as we have the money! If you help me reach my funding goal, I will start working on this important s**t literally and immediately. I am aiming to finish extractions and DNA amplification by December, send off DNA to get sequenced, and match the resulting DNA “barcodes” to kinds of insects for final analysis results by next April.

Oct 08, 2019

Project Launched

Dec 31, 2019

All feces sample DNA extracted

Apr 30, 2020

Sequencing and analysis completed 

May 31, 2020

Share final results with backers

Meet the Team

Jason Preble
Jason Preble

Affiliates

Island Bat Research Group
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Jason Preble

I am from Hawaiʻi, an archipelago renowned for its natural environment, but also unfortunately for its high rate of native species extinctions. Growing up interested in the outdoors and wildlife, the more I learned, the more I saw the scale of Hawaiʻi’s conservation challenges. My long-term motivation is to improve our stewardship of my home islands and towards that end, I have been studying island conservation in New Zealand and now Japan.

ハワイ出身で、ハワイは自然が有名である列島ですが、残念ながら、絶滅してしまった動植物数が多いことが知られています。小さい頃から外に遊んで野生動物に興味があって、学べば学ぶほどハワイの環境保全問題の大きさを理解するようになりました。長期的な夢は、故郷の島の保全を改善することであり、そのためにニュージーランドと現在日本で島の保全を研究しています。


Project Backers

  • 55Backers
  • 104%Funded
  • $2,921Total Donations
  • $53.11Average Donation
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