Welcome to the Kunz Bat Lab at Boston University!
Kunz Lab Research
Our current research addresses several questions in ecology, behavior, evolution and conservation biology of bats. Each of these general questions is framed within the context of an emerging discipline known as aeroecology (see Aeroecology page).
One aspect of our research involves assessing the role of plant-visiting and insectivorous bats by providing ecosystem services. Ongoing studies on plant-visiting bats are being conducted in India, Malaysia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica, in collaboration with former students and colleagues. New studies are being planned for research in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and New England, which focus on the role of bats in forest, aquatic, and agroecosystems.
Our continued research on the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) focuses on nightly dispersal, foraging and migration, using thermal infrared imaging, radiotelemetry, and Doppler and vertical profiler RADAR detection to better understand how these bats use the aerosphere in response to insect activity, weather conditions, and global climate change.
Another aspect of our ongoing and newly proposed research involves assessing the impact that emerging diseases are having on bat populations, especially white-nose syndrome in the United States. Current studies are being conducted in the northeastern U.S., although we expect to expand our research into regions where this devastating disease is spreading to the south and west of its current distribution. These studies will include assessments of colony composition, population dynamics, population genetic structure, phylogeography climate change, and immune responses to putative pathogens (see section on white-nose syndrome).
We also are continuing to investigate factors that influence species diversity in tropical bats, including topography, diet, social behavior, roosting habits, habitat alteration, and global climate change. This research mostly focuses on studies of bats in Ecuador and Costa Rica.
A new component of our research involves the analysis of collective behavior of bats, based on how they are able to navigate in cluttered environments, including movements of individuals in large emerging columns—as observed in Brazilian free-tailed bats—but also and how individual bats behave in habitats with different degrees of forest clutter, using three-dimensional imaging of flight trajectories using thermal infrared cameras and forest structure depicted using LIDAR.