Rutgers Takes Stage, As Bats Take To The Air, At Troy Meadows Preserve

Registration Open for August 6

: Alex Matarazzo of Montville, 4, measures his “wingspan” Photo credit: Mary Matarazzo

PARSIPPANY — A muggy and buggy night did not deter visitors to Troy Meadows Nature Preserve, as experts from Rutgers’ Wildlife Conservation and Management Program dazzled once again at their recent Bat Walk, giving guests entertaining insight into the night life of Parsippany’s bats!

Fifty attendees from Par-Troy and the surrounding area joined the outdoor presentation, organized by the Parsippany Bat Protection Project (PBPP), as egrets and herons flew overhead. Children were quizzed on bat facts and trivia by researchers Evan Drake, Erin McHale, and Morgan Mark, who charmed listeners with their obvious love of bats and their work at Rutgers. “I study their poop,” admitted McHale, eliciting laughter from the audience. Her work on resident bats’ diets may seem surprising, but it is important to understand the way bats survive in the wild and how that changes over time. McHale is currently investigating whether the invasive spotted lanternfly is on the menu for any of New Jersey’s bats. Evan Drake uses spatial information to identify current and future bat habitat, and how North America’s native chiroptera, or bats, use forested landscapes.

Rutgers bat experts (L to R) Morgan Mark, Erin McHale, and Evan Drake present bat facts and educational displays to the audience. Photo credit: Parsippany Bat Protection Project

The educators shared not just their enthusiasm for bats but respect for nature in all its forms. Returning from the walk under the night sky McHale pointed to an egg-laden spider on the trail, urging children to study but not disturb. “She’s just out looking for her dinner,” mused Erin, “she’s probably tired and hungry like we all are, so we don’t want to disturb her — she’s had a long day.”

Alex Matarazzo of Montville, 4, wore a Halloween-themed shirt for the occasion. He enjoyed the bat-themed crafts and activities – including some coloring pages and games with small prizes – as he waited for the presentation to begin. Even the youngest visitors seemed captivated by the humorous, interactive lecture – – and came away with a greater understanding of our native bats. Alex, for one, learned that baby bats are called “pups” and now refers to bats as “sky puppies.” He also enjoyed practicing his own batlike shrieks during a demonstration on echolocation, using a Rubbermaid storage lid as a larger and more human-appropriate target.

The Parsippany Bat Protection Project, an initiative of the Parsippany Green Team, strives to educate residents on the ecological significance of bats and the importance of preserving and enhancing their environment in the wake of habitat loss and the devastating white nose syndrome fungus that has plagued bat populations in recent years. To that end, the PBPP has sponsored projects to install maternal bat boxes and native trees in several Parsippany parks, and last October held the first of its kind Bat-apalooza and Green Fair at the Parsippany Main Library. These events were also supported by the work of Wildlife Preserves Inc., the Parsippany Environmental Advisory Committee, and Morris County 4-H.

The PBPP has planned another Bat Night at Troy Meadows on Saturday, August 6 (rain date Friday, August 12) To request tickets click here.

Nighttime programs at Troy Meadows are limited to scheduled events, but the property is open to the public from dawn to dusk and is known as a haven for migratory birds. For entry points and guidelines (no motorized vehicles or dogs off-leash) click here.

For more facts about New Jersey’s bats and the Rutgers Wildlife Conservation Management Program click here.

To learn more about the Parsippany Bat Protection Project click here.

As dusk approaches, Rutgers researcher Evan Drake conducts an interactive “echolocation” demonstration with the audience. Photo credit: Parsippany Bat Protection Project