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USGS Mendenhall Postdoctoral  Research Fellowship Program

14-35. Quantifying impacts of land-use and climate changes on migratory tree bats affected by wind turbines in North America

We seek a postdoctoral fellow to study the impacts of land-use and climate changes on migratory tree bats affected by wind energy development in North America. This opportunity will provide an unprecedented opportunity to integrate species distribution models with observational and/or experimental field studies, while incorporating information about land-use and climate changes in North America. Current and future changes in climate and land-use are likely to have substantial impacts on animals that migrate. A group of tree-dependent bats commonly referred to as “migratory tree bats” migrate across regional and continental scales and the populations, migratory patterns, and species ranges of these bats may be significantly altered by land-use and climate changes in the contiguous United States and elsewhere. The rapid and widespread deployment of industrial wind turbines is an example of a global land-use change that is having unanticipated adverse effects on tree-roosting bats that migrate (Cryan 2011, Ellison 2012).

One of the greatest difficulties in predicting when and where turbines will most affect bats is the fact that we know very little about the habitats or seasonal whereabouts of the highly migratory species that are most affected.  Migratory tree bats are notoriously difficult to observe in the wild, particularly during late summer and early autumn when they are most often found dead at turbines.  We still lack very basic information about their habits, such as areas where they concentrate during autumn migration, where they winter on the continent, and whether they hibernate or remain active during winter.  Population sizes of migratory tree bats are currently unknown.  Simply put, if the bats do not occur in an area, they cannot be affected by wind energy development there.  Building upon earlier cross-disciplinary studies into the continental movement patterns of tree bats (Findley and Jones 1964, Cryan 2003), we are currently using state-of-the-art species distribution modeling techniques to map when and how these highly mobile bats might move across the North American landscape.  Our ongoing species distribution modeling effort is providing new insights into how landscape features and environmental conditions might influence the seasonal distribution patterns of migratory tree bats at regional and continental scales.  The current work also provides an unprecedented foundation from which to try and forecast the ecosystem and economic impacts of land-use and climate changes on a highly migratory species that remains in North America throughout the year and likely relies on both warm and cold seasonal habitats for survival.  Our developing understanding of the relationships between migratory bats and the landscapes they move across may help us predict how they might fare in a changing world.

The Mendenhall Fellow will have an opportunity to integrate species distribution models with observational and/or experimental field studies, while incorporating information about land-use and climate changes in North America.  The postdoctoral fellow is expected to design a research project aimed at forecasting the impacts of land-use and climate change on migratory tree bats in North America in the context of wind energy development, consistent with USGS priorities.  Candidates are encouraged to develop proposals aiming for some or all of the following goals: (1) Design and conduct field studies to assess hypothesized distributions of tree bats based on existing model results, with such methods as capture and acoustic surveys, radio-telemetry, videography, and/or satellite tracking; (2) Identifying continental and regional hotspots of tree bat activity where land-use and climate changes will likely have adverse impacts on their populations and the ecosystem services they provide; (3) Detecting distributional shifts linked to land-use and climate change in species of migratory tree bat in North America; (4) Developing models of ecosystem-service valuation and quantify long-term, continental-scale ecosystem service impacts of land-use and climate changes; and (5) seek opportunities to engage stakeholders in the use of this information for planning, conservation, and problem-solving, with a particular focus on predicting risk and minimizing fatalities of bats at industrial wind turbines.


Cryan, P. M. 2003. Seasonal distribution of migratory tree bats (Lasiurus and Lasionycteris) in North America. Journal of Mammalogy 84:579–593.

Cryan, P. M. 2011. Wind turbines as landscape impediments to the migratory connectivity of bats. Environmental Law 41:355–370.

Ellison, L. E. 2012. Bats and wind energy: a literature synthesis and annotated bibliography: U.S. Geological Survey, Open File Report 2012–1110.

Findley, J. S., and C. Jones. 1964. Seasonal distribution of the hoary bat. Journal of Mammalogy 45:461–470.

Proposed Duty station: Fort Collins, CO

Areas of Ph.D.: Ecology, conservation biology, wildlife biology, or related fields (candidates holding a Ph.D. in other disciplines, but with extensive knowledge and skills relevant to the Research Opportunity may be considered).

Qualifications: Applicants must meet one of the following qualifications - Research Biologist, Research Ecologist, Research Wildlife Biologist.

(This type of work is performed by those who have backgrounds for the occupations stated above. However, other titles may be applicable depending on the applicant’s background, education, and research proposal. The final classification of theposition will be made by the Human Resources specialist).

Research Advisors and Affiliations: Paul Cryan, (970) 226-9389,; Catherine Jarnevich, (970) 226-9439,; William Gascoigne, (970) 226-9227,; Ernie Valdez, (505) 346-2870,; Mike Wunder (U Colorado Denver), (303) 556-8870,

Human Resources Office Contact: Jennifer Daberkow, (303) 236-9566,

Go back to Summary of Opportunities

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
URL: Cryan.htm
Direct inquiries to Rama K. Kotra at
Maintained by: Mendenhall Research Fellowship Program Web Team
Last modified: 17:58:06 Tue 23 Jul 2013
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