When I was two years old, my mum and I decided to watch a bit of telly. I have no memory of this but the programme I watched was about bats and how misunderstood they were. Something inside me clicked and suddenly bats, and their cause, became my entire world.
17 years on and I am at university studying zoology, with the intention of becoming a future bat scientist!
So what was it, then, that captured me in this programme? My mum has often tried to work it out and we reckon it was the very fact that still, to this day, confuses me – people don’t like bats. But why? I’d ask repeatedly – and as a young and passionate 6-year-old, shout down anyone I met that dare tell me bats were scary or ugly.
Thankfully, we discovered the Bat Conservation Trust and the wonderful thing that is ‘The Young Batworker’ magazine – edited by Shirley Thompson who is, I have to confess, a bit of a hero of mine. In 2004, I entered the ‘Bat Diary’ competition run by the magazine – for which I came up with (and my mum transcribed) a short story about a rousette bat. You can imagine my complete euphoria when I found out I’d won!
This just inspired me further and in 2014, I contributed some bat artwork to an issue of ‘The Young Batworker’. This was great because I like to think that there’s another young child out there like me that’s now reading that magazine and getting inspired! In sixth form, I also got the opportunity to write an essay of any length on any topic I wanted. Naturally, I chose bats and naturally, it ended up being 17,500 words long. I got an A!
These days, I find myself in Cornwall on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus and on my 19th birthday, instead of partying in Falmouth, I got the train to Truro and dragged my friends to a meeting of the Cornwall Bat Group! I am so pleased I went, too, because I met some great people and it meant I arranged to go on a bat carer course. I have since completed it and got to have a go at handling some tiny male soprano pipistrelles… This was an utter dream come true! I am planning on registering as a bat carer as soon as I’m in student accommodation that allows tenants to keep animals!
When people ask me why I like bats, I get rather speechless. Partly because so many reasons flood to my mind that it gets hard to pick one, but also because… well… why wouldn’t you? Not only are they important seed dispersers, pest control and pollinators for the ecosystems of the planet, but they are also scientific enigmas. How is it that the Brandt’s bat, a creature smaller than a house mouse, can live for 41 years in captivity? How is it that many fruit bats can carry so many deadly viruses asymptomatically? How can we use the bat to aid our knowledge of senses? Of flight? Of mammal group dynamics? In short, to me, they are the most incredible order of mammals on the planet!
This summer I am planning on doing as many bat surveys as possible with my ever-trusty bat detector, which, I add, is 13 years old – best 6th birthday present ever. I’ve also got the opportunity to go to Utila, an island off the coast of Honduras, to help with research into the bat species there! I’ve had to face my fear of needles to get all my vaccinations for that one, and quite often the nurses would distract me by telling me to think of the bats! On the 25th of March, I am also heading to the South West Bat Conference which I am super excited about (despite the 6:45am train!) because it’s a bit of an adventure as I have never been to a bat conference before. I am very much looking forward to it!
Thanks so much to the BCT for letting me write a blog post!