'Aiding in their conservation': Mount Aloysius students place bat box in nature center

Kelly Urban, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·3 min read

Apr. 28—EBENSBURG — As a way to promote the natural ecosystem of the area, members of a Mount Aloysius College biology class placed a bat box at Nathan's Divide nature center as part of its service learning project.

"Bats are an integral part of our ecosystem, yet their populations continue to decline," said Crystal Goldyn, associate professor of science and mathematics at Mount Aloysius. "The students wanted to provide education about the bats, while simultaneously aiding in their conservation."

Six students were on hand to install the bat box, which was donated by the state Game Commission.

"In this course, I try to do a service learning project every semester and I let the students pick what they want to do," Goldyn said. "This semester was a little different with COVID restrictions, so we had to pick something that was outside and didn't involve a lot of people at one time.

"We thought about animals and what might be helpful, where we could advocate for them."

After students scoped out the area in the nature center, a tree close to the water of the Ebensburg Reservoir was chosen to mount the bat box.

"We're hoping the bats will come and migrate to this area — it's eight feet off the ground, facing the south and near water where there's a lot of insects," Goldyn said. "As far as maintenance, we'll come out every once in a while to make sure everything is still intact."

As part of the project, students placed a small marker close to the bat box with a scannable QR code that links to a website where people can learn more about bats and and those species that are native to the area.

Senior Devonna Weimert came up with the idea for the bat box project.

"I did a lot of camping last summer at state parks and came across a couple of these bat boxes and thought it was a cool idea and it was in my mind of something I wanted to do," she said. "I find bats to be interesting."

Weimert said by doing the project, the class learned just how big of a role bats play in the ecosystem from pest control, pollinating plants and dispersing seeds.

"People don't like bats in their houses, so this box is a good alternative to get them out of houses and into a better place to live," she said. "It would be nice if more people put them up."

Plans are in the works to install a second donated bat box on the Mount Aloysius campus.

"For the students, they're learning that service can teach you things that sitting in a classroom can't," Goldyn said.

"Hopefully, people will learn a little bit more about bats. I think sometimes they're stigmatized as creepy or gross. But they're really important to our environment, so if we can provide housing for them, we might increase their populations."