April 30, 2021

Do social bonds extend beyond the roost?

We published a new preprint on the role of social relationships during foraging in vampire bats. Since the 70s, researchers reported anecdotal observations on groups of vampire bats that depart from the roost or feed from the same cow together. However, it was entirely unclear whether co-departing individuals would also forage together or whether co-foraging individuals would be socially bonded. A combination of captive observations and proximity sensing in the wild showed us that socially bonded bats depart from the roost individually but often re-unite later during foraging. In other words, social bonds matter during foraging!

The figure below illustrates that association inside roost, grooming and food sharing rates in captivity, and kinship all independently predict encounters during foraging. 

I've made a ten-minute video that summarizes the paper and that I will present at the European Bat Research Symposium. 

April 12, 2021

Slamming for Science!!

Doing science outreach is a great opportunity to get some relief from the pandemic. Over the past couple of months, I participated in 3 Science Slams, the last one being the most exciting one because it happened in person at the Berlin Carl-Zeiss-Planetarium. Great location!! If you're interested to know how vampire bats make friends and what they do when they're sick, then check out the video on youtube

January 28, 2021

Book chapter on vampire bat diet 

The North American Society for Bat Research published a book on "50 Years of Bat Research". It covers topics from five decades of the society's symposia and how those topics evolved over time.

Gerry Carter, Bridget Brown, Imran Razik, and I were allowed to contribute a chapter on the surprisingly diverse diet of vampire bats. Did you know that vampires can feed on penguins, sea lions, and snakes? Find out more about this and other topics! 


January 19, 2021

Joining the exclusive club of IoT heroes ;)

A centerpiece of our Wireless Biologging Network is a microcontroller by Silicon Labs. Therefore, my colleague Niklas and I were interviewed for the Internet-of-Things heroes blog where SI Labs covers interesting applications of their hardware. Another widely used device that has been covered by the blog is the Audiomoth acoustic recorder that had been developed at the University of Oxford. The blog post can be found here.

In addition, The Verge, a famous US tech webpage that reaches about 80 million people a month, also published a piece on our work.

Enjoy reading!

December 08, 2020

My work in the DFG magazine

Four times a year, the DFG publishes its print magazine 'Magazin Forschung' (English version 'German Research') and in III/2020 my dear colleague Alex Kölpin and I were invited to contribute an article on our collaborative work within the DFG research unit BATS. It was a great honor to get the opportunity to highlight my own research in such a prestigious place and for a broad readership! The magazine is available in print at all German universities and research institutes (free of charge) or online as a pdf version.

Social distancing & media attention

As in 2019, we managed to get a paper published for Halloween - this year on social distancing in vampire bats. The media coverage has been overwhelming and Altmertic (an online attention score) has tracked almost 2,400 research outputs on our paper, the third most ever tracked for a paper published in Behavioral Ecology. 

In Germany alone, we tracked 164 online media or print outlets that featured our work. Two TV appearances will air on December 20th (Deutsche Welle) and in January (ZDF). 

Won't be easy to top that that in the future - vampire bats for Halloween and social distancing during a pandemic definitely help to attract media attention :)

July 22, 2020

Press & Outreach

Just recently, the summer 2020 edition of the UK mammal society news appeared and I was able to contribute a piece on our work on noctule bats in Berlin. We used proximity sensors to study information transfer during foraging and roost finding.

Besides that, DER SPIEGEL features Gerry's and my work in their famous print magazine. What an honor!


April 15, 2020

Wireless Biologging Networks

Two weeks ago and almost half a year after the official end of our interdisciplinary DFG research unit BATS, we published our collaborative methods article in PLoS Biology. In retrospect, these past 7 years of close collaboration with computer scientists and electrical engineers have been an incredibly exciting and insightful time with many ups and downs. It makes me really happy that some of the developments will be commercially available soon (provided by a colleague of mine Niklas Duda) and that the final methods paper, which gives an overview of our developments, is now featured at the very top of the PLoS Biology homepage. This incredible picture was taken by Sherri & Brock Fenton during a joint field trip to Belize.

March 19, 2020

How do strangers become

cooperation partners?

This question was the motivation for our latest study published in Current Biology. My boss and friend Gerry Carter introduced vampire bats from different colonies to each other and observed their social interactions. The unfamiliar bats first seemed to 'test the waters' by investing in low-cost allogrooming, then gradually increased their grooming investment, before they finally formed food-sharing relationships. These findings are consistent with the 'raising the stakes' hypothesis for the formation of cooperative relationships. While Gerry was designing the study and led the fieldwork in Panama, I was running the molecular analyses. 

This study is also the prequel of our joint paper on the stability of social bonds. The bats in this more recent study that were captured in Tolé were the same individuals that have been released two years later with proximity sensors. 

The New York Times, National Geographic, The Scientific American and CNN reported on our paper amongst others.


February 2, 2020

Paper on a non-invasive ECG-sensor

The design of a new non-invasive ECG sensor, which has been developed by my colleague from engineering Niklas Duda, has today been accepted for publication in IEEE Sensors Letters. Hanna Wieser is currently analyzing ECG data from 13 bats species that we collected on a field trip in Panama using this novel sensor node. It does not require implanting of electrodes, they are attached to the depilated skin.

A greater spear-nosed bat (Phyllostomus hastatus) carrying a ECG sensor node with two electrodes attached to the skin. The animal was temporarily kept in a flight cage in Panama.

November 1, 2019

Paper on vampire social bonds

Our first paper on proximity sensing in vampire bats came out on Halloween! Gerry Carter studied the social bonds of a group of females for almost 2 years by quantifying social grooming and food sharing in captivity. We then tagged the bats and released them back into their wild colony inside a hollow tree on a cattle pasture. The high-resolution social networks generated by the proximity sensors showed us that many relationships from captivity survived the dramatic change in the social and physical environ-ment when going from the lab back into the wild. 

Selected media responses from around the globe:

Nature, ScienceNational Public Radio USACosmos Magazine Australia, El Mundo Spain, NOVA PBS USA, Science Daily 

A common vampire bat carrying a next-generation proximity sensor. Picture by Sherri & Brock Fenton.

September 12, 2019

NASBR 2019 at Kalamazoo

The annual NASBR meeting is approaching, 23-26 of October! I will be presenting our work on proximity sensing in noctule bats and Gerry Carter will give a talk on social bonds in vampire bats. So lots of opportunities to learn about the latest developments in bat biologging!

August 16, 2019

Paper on fruit chemical ecology

Ectophylla alba is a fig specialists and occurs in Central America

E. alba.JPG

I finally got a paper published on data that I collected on the side during my PhD-fieldwork in Costa Rica. We collected scent of fruits of a typical 'bird-fig' during day and night and compared their bouquets. Turns out that the scent differs significantly between day and night. During biotests we found that Ectophylla alba, a bat that eats these 'bird-figs', is able to find  ripe fruit with scent as the only cue. We hypothesize that these changes in scent might be an adaptation of the plant to widen the disperser spectrum (bats & birds).

Read the full paper at PlosONE (open access

August 16, 2019

Paper on seasonality in bat movements

Today, another study was published, which I co-authored. We show that in Lavia frons, a desert-dwelling bat, homerages and activity levels differ between the dry and the rainy season.  

Read the paper at Movement Ecology (open access)