Two local students have developed ground breaking bat detection tools to protect the fascinating winged mammals.
Richard Beattie and Dylan Bagnall (pictured) are 5th-year students at The King’s Hospital and former award winners at the BT Young Scientist.
Next month they will be Northern Ireland’s representatives to the Intel ISEF which is the largest international pre-college science competition.
They are going there with their project “Developing novel, low-cost methods to aid citizen-scientists in bat conservation.”
Richard spoke with Dublin Gazette to explain all about their latest endeavour which they hope will help the Irish bat population.
“As you may know, about a year ago Dylan began hearing sounds in his ceiling during the middle of the night,” he said.
“Understandably this was quite unsettling and so the local wildlife ranger was called out.
“He discovered that there were over seven hundred bats in his attic!
“This planted the seeds to what would become a multi-faceted project into bat conservation.
“We had both for a long time harboured a concern for the environment.
“Upon hearing about the bats we decided to replace words with actions and try and see which of the nine Irish species were present.
“Unfortunately, this is where we ran into difficulties: consumer bat detectors can cost more than €1,000, there is no central repository for Irish bat calls, and some bats can’t be identified with bat detectors.”
The motivated students decided to try and address these problems themselves.
“Dylan’s interests lie in biology while mine are technological, so we embarked on an interdisciplinary project,” Richard said.
“By June of 2018, we were presenting at the Sentinus Young Innovators in Northern Ireland.
“By this time we had designed a unique genetic test which could identify between the nine Irish bat species using droppings from the roost, this meant no invasive handling would be required.
“Along with this we had constructed and coded our own bat detector which costs just €140, undercutting the nearest Time-Expansion (a type of bat detector) bat detector by 50% while outperforming it.
“Finally, we had set up a citizen-science website, https://batidentification.com, to allow accurate bat population data to be collected.
“With Intel ISEF coming up soon we believe our tools are now ready to be used by everyday citizen-scientists.
“We want to publicise our https://batidentification.com website and try and get people who have bats in their homes to report them to us.