Guest blog: Bat Matters 2020 Conference: creating bat-friendly communities
The second Bat Matters Conference, virtually centered in Richmond, BC, was a huge success. The theme this year was Creating Bat-Friendly Communities. The conference was conceived in as a way to celebrate the City of Richmond becoming BC’s third certified bat-friendly community, raise awareness of the program, and provide guidance and tools to help other communities become more bat-friendly. It also provided an avenue to inform local partners about bats and bat work being conducted in the region.
The Bat Matters conference was originally planned as a 2-day event to be held in May 2020; however, COVID-19 restrictions on indoor events resulted in moving to an online platform. This change had a positive side by allowing more people to attend the event. The planning committee reached out to groups including bat biologists, government staff, bat enthusiasts, local environmental organizations, community groups, and residents living with bats to sign on to the conference and learn from one another. In the end this small conference grew to 137 registrants and 17 guests!
The virtual conference was held September 28th to October 9th. It included 10 pre-recorded presentations (8-20 minutes in length), with featured daily presentations, and two moderated 90-minute online discussions on October 2nd and October 9th to review and discuss the material presented during the week. The presentations were delivered by specialists in the field of bat research, conservation, and stewardship in BC. All presenters were available to answer participant questions. PDFs of the presentations are available on the BC Community Bat Program web site.
The first week focused on bat-friendly communities and bat conservation. It provided a forum for local government staff and land managers from around the region to learn about the program, share information about bats, and identify work being done in the province to support bats, and discuss solutions that can address some of the challenges that bats face by developing bat-friendly communities.
The second week focused on providing tools and information for becoming bat-friendly, and focussed on topics that receive many inquiries through the BC Community Bat Program. Presentations discussed living with bats, health risks associated with bats, bat boxes, and where to locate bat data.
The BatMatters 2020 conference was hosted by South Coast Bat Conservation Society, BC Community Bat Program, Metro Vancouver Regional Parks, and Burke Mountain Naturalists Society. It was modelled on the first BatMatters conference, hosted by Peachland BEEPS (the Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society in Peachland, BC) following their designation as a Bat-friendly Community in 2019. Both Bat Matters conferences were very successful we hope to continue holding conferences approximately every two years to share current bat research and highlight local stewardship efforts. For more information, contact Mandy Kellner, Provincial Coordinator, BC Community Bat Program (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Article submitted by Danielle Dagenais for the BC Bat Matters Planning Committee
This Guest Blog is a featured story in our Bat Monthly Newsletter of December 2020. The full newsletter can be found here.