2020 - GCUBatman

University bat man develops detector to help declining population

Thu, 03 Sep 2020 11:07:00 BST
Dr David Moore in the field with his bat detector
Dr David Moore in the field with his bat detector

Glasgow Caledonian University has its very own bat man – and while he doesn’t fight crime, he is looking to help solve a mystery.

Over the summer, Dr David Moore, a senior lecturer in the University’s Audio Technology department, has built a custom ‘bat detector’ to help the Bat Conservation Trust conduct field and waterway surveys of various species across Scotland.

Dr Moore’s detector uses an ultrasonic microphone and a Raspberry Pi, a small single-board computer, to record bat calls and classify the species.

He said: “The mic is able to record sounds significantly beyond the upper range of human hearing - up to 192 kHz. Most bat calls reside in the region of 20-60 kHz. The Raspberry Pi acquires this data and records it to file. The data is then run through a machine-learning algorithm to determine the bat species based on features that describe their unique calls.”   

The Bat Conservation Trust is looking to fill in missing knowledge on Scotland’s nine resident bat species and its scientists rely on the eyes and ears of volunteers across the entire country to help look or listen for bats wherever they live.

Dr Moore has so far used his device to survey a 1km area around Ballikinrain Campus, near Fintry, and a 1km stretch of the Endrick River area of Balfron, looking for the Daubenton’s bat, which is primarily found around water.

He said: “Bat numbers in the UK have declined dramatically over the last century. By monitoring bats, the Bat Conservation Trust can discover the factors that are important for their survival.

“I’ve always been interested in nature and have noticed the bats in my garden – probably more so than usual during the lockdown. I have an interest in sound, of course, but became curious about their calls and whether it would be possible to build a system to identify them. I didn’t know the first thing about bats before I started this!”