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Building a Better Bat House How a group of NAIT students and staff made history in the name of biological conservation

When NAIT Biological Sciences Technology chair and instructor Dave Critchley learned about the Quarry Life Award, he thought it might be a way to help endangered bat species in Alberta.

But he also knew that it would mean many volunteer hours from students - for no extra credit.

“Nobody has time to do these extra projects,” he says. But a group of eager students stepped forward and began work in September 2017 to build a new kind of bat house that could boost the population.

The Quarry Life Award is held by HeidelbergCement. It invites researchers, students and citizens to propose ideas to support biodiversity at the company's 101 quarries around the world - including the Lehigh Hanson limestone quarry near Cadomin, Alberta.

The little brown bat is one of the most common species found near the Cadomin quarry.

They're threatened by a potentially fatal condition called white nose syndrome. The syndrome can wake them during winter hibernation, causing them to burn body fat that gets them through the season.

Students tested their houses by using an environmental chamber at NAIT to simulate temperatures observed in the roosts of local bat colonies. The best performing units, which the team presented to the quarry staff at Cadomin, feature a material that helps regulate internal temperature. Warmer conditions allow bats to preserve body fat, increasing their chances of survival if woken from hibernation by white nose syndrome.
Staff at the quarry built this stand for the bat houses. It uses old drilling stems and a cable spool that had been discarded as waste. They assembled it according to the students' design.

The work paid off - and not just for the bats. The project placed second in the North America section of the award and first internationally in the category of biodiversity management. What's more, it now has the potential to be implemented worldwide.

“We hope to extend this work to some of our other sites,” says Brent Korobanik, environmental manager for Edmonton’s Lehigh Hanson cement plant and the Cadomin quarry. “it definitely will be expanding beyond Cadomin.”

“When we first started working with Dave, he kept reminding us, ‘You know, we might not go anywhere with this. But it’s good experience.’ We all went into it not expecting anything from it. But it turns out we made quite an impact. It was a great surprise.”

- Ronnie Caron (Biological Sciences Technology – Renewable Resources ’18), one of the leaders of NAIT's Quarry Life Award project

Credits:

Leigh Kovesy

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