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NSF Grant to Support Bat Research Network

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Stony Brook is one of three institutions receiving a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in support of the Global Union of Bat Diversity Networks (GBatNet), a worldwide network linking 14 bat research groups.

Liliana Davalos

Bats are nature’s solution to control insect pests like mosquitos and earworms; they play crucial roles in pollinating plants so they set seed; and they can survive or ward off many viruses. In order to investigate the remarkable characteristics of bats that impact earth’s ecology and the lives of people worldwide, GBatNet will coordinate research into more than 1,400 bat species living worldwide.

The network will delve further into key aspects of bat biology that are not fully understood, such as bat longevity and metabolism, as well as the causes and consequences of population declines, with possible relationships to viruses circulating in bat populations spilling over to other mammals – a trait that is often inaccurately communicated to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vampire bat
Vampire bat

“Around the world, bats are important insectivores that save billions of dollars in agricultural pesticides each year, and that is just one of their benefits to society,” said Liliana M. Dávalos, Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution in the College of Arts and Sciences at Stony Brook University and co-investigator.

“Our goal with the network of networks is to articulate research from diverse fields, from genomics, to conservation, and including epidemiology, to implement our vision of sustainable bat diversity in a changing world,” Dávalos said.

Dávalos’ role in GBatNet is to orient research efforts across all networks and to oversee collaborative and interdisciplinary work that leads to realizing the GBatNet goal.

As part of GBatNet, her project, titled “Bats as a model for understanding global vertebrate diversification and sustainability,” will receive $185,000 from the NSF.

The two other funded institutions for the GBatNet are the American Museum of Natural History and Texas Tech University.

According to Dávalos and her international colleagues, this bat “network of networks,” creates a new avenue for global research exchanges and brings together experts in varied scientific disciplines. They hope GBatNet will also lead to further education about bats and global outreach.

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