Host: Jackie Belwood

In 1998, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) began all All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI). The goal of this 15-year project is to inventory every living thing in the Park, mostly during taxon-specific “bio-blitzes” that allow large numbers of biologists and volunteers to converge on the Park collecting activities. Past blitzes have focused on taxa ranging from ferns to beetles to slime molds. Some ATBI participants noted gaps in data on ecto- and endoparasites from bats, and this led to the organization of the first Bat Blitz in the southeast.

From 17-20 June 2002, 26 biologists from nine institutions trapped 205 bats at 12 locations in the Park. Seven bat species were captured, including endangered Indiana bats and a Rafinesque’s big-eared bat. Blitz volunteers collected ectoparasites, feces, blood, tissue and fur; these samples were sent to five different institutions for further study on parasites and genetic analyses. An Indiana bat maternity roost was found as a result of the Blitz.

The Blitz also allowed numerous bat biologists to work in teams, sharing ideas and information plus tips on field techniques. The Bat Blitz received media attention and generated several newspaper articles favorable to bats.