Volunteers keep eyes open for threatened bats at Andersen

by Airman 1st Class Alexa Ann Henderson, 36th Wing Public Affairs
Andersen Air Force Base

ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam -- More than 100 volunteers came together to conduct a Mariana fruit bat survey in the early hours of May 30 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, for the second consecutive year.

The survey brought 36th Civil Engineer Squadron Environmental Flight members and University of Guam volunteers together to survey the amount of federally threatened bats on Andersen Air Force Base and Northwest Field.

Last year's bat survey count yielded 21 bats and the project manager predicts this year's count should be around the same number.

"It's thought that most of the bats on Guam are up at Andersen because Andersen has the most forest area," said Tammy Mildenstein, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Guam who managed the fruit bat survey. "It's also the closest to (the nearby island) Rota, so there's some natural migration back and forth between the islands. Andersen is the last location where we know there's a colony of fruit bats (on Guam)."

There are 3,000 fruit bats that live on the nearby island Rota. Previous studies show that the bats migrate between both islands, which may prove to be beneficial to Guam's fruit bat population.

Shermaine Garcia, 36th CES Environmental Flight biological science technician, said the migration between islands is a potential beneficial factor for the bats on Guam by introducing new bats to the gene pool as they migrate between the islands to prevent inbreeding.

While there is a mass amount of bats on Rota, it is crucial for base programs to protect and monitor the small colony that lives on Guam.

Mildenstein said evaluating the fruit bats regularly and helping the species recover is important to Guam's ecosystem because they play a big role in dispersing seeds for plants to grow on the island. Before other mammals were introduced from other places, the bat was the main way plant seeds were spread.

"Originally, the fruit bat was the only mammal on island," Mildenstein said. "They play a very important role in pollinating the island, especially in places where trees have fallen down from storms or other events."

The surveys to gather more information on the remaining bat population have brought volunteers from all walks of life together, and 36th CES initiatives have played a critical role in bringing together experts and volunteers for the common cause of supporting the environment.

Mildenstein said the environmental flight has been key with the fruit bat survey and is pleased to work with them on this annual project.

"Andersen's civil engineer squadron is awesome," Mildenstein said. "Without them, we couldn't do any of this. They handle logistics and how to get around Andersen to conduct the survey."

The results of the survey are scheduled to be published in mid-July, with the next bat survey being scheduled for the same time next year.

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