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Thursday, May 25th, 2006

This entry is continued from the May 15th, 2006 entry, in which I overreacted to the presence of some folks who were driving around the neighborhood in cars with huge antennas and laptops. Laura and I talked to one of them for a while, and he gave me permission to post pictures and some information about him on PaaT.

Andy, pictured below, majored in ecology and was hired as a consultant by Bat Conservation and Management, Inc.

Andy in his car, tracking bats.

BCM provides equipment and training for bat researchers, and helps to research and preserve the Indiana bat, an endangered species. I much admire their solution to bats roosting in your house - rather than exterminate the bats, they gradually bat proof your house (It can't be sealed up all at once or the bats may be trapped inside) and install a bat roosting house at the edge of your property. The bats eventually forsake the human house for the one designed for their comfort.

Andy explained that BCM was doing a survey of the local bat population at the request of a nearby military installation, which apparently had a bat infestation. Several bats had been tagged with transmitters after being caught in harp traps, and Andy and several colleagues were trying to pinpoint their roosting spot. The project would be over at the end of May.

Andy said he had had over 30 encounters with the police, most of whom were quite friendly once he explained his business. He and his colleagues had meant to inform the Chatham police of their plans for that night but had forgotten to do so.

Here's another shot of Andy and his equipment. The laptop is displaying an area map, and the ultra-sophisticated Yagi-Uda antenna rotation control is visible in the foreground. (Note to nighttime photographers: I cheated with this image by taking two shots, one of which was optimized for the laptop screen, and combining them in Photoshop.)

Andy with his bat-tracking equipment.

Laura, who has an engineering background and a ham radio license, got some technical information, which I append below:

The car (Aztec) has a yagi antenna (like a TV antenna) that he can rotate, but the antenna's angle is not fed into a computer to get an exact bearing. It looks like he's only getting an approximate angle on that bearing-to-the-bat. They use 2 guys together to triangulate and gauge roughly where the bat is. The transmitter seems to ping about every 5 or 10 seconds, and the guys listen to the sound. When the pings remain at constant volume, they know the bat has stopped moving (probably to roost); when the pings vary in volume, they know the bat is moving around; the signal gets weaker if, for example, there are trees between the bat and the receiver. When I first went out to speak to Andy, the bat was roughly 30 or 45 degrees east of North; later on it had gone more like almost due north, or 5 to 10 degrees east of north. After a while, he lost the signal and decided to move the car, to get closer to the bat (the transmitters have a range of only a mile). Bye Andy!

He says a lot of the cops are bored much of the time too... and he's spoken to a lot of people like us, curious about the project, etc. Some think he's a ham (radio operator), etc. Well, I can understand that; most hams get a jones when they see any kind of unusual antenna; especially a yagi (directional antenna).

That's all for this entry. Until!

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