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AcademicHi! I am bat researcher. I am heading to the bat cave in search of pregnant vampires for my study on vampire evolution! AMA!

Jan 22nd 2017 by salinas_nerd • 14 Questions • 74 Points

Hi Reddit!

I am one of a handful of scientists studying bat development. I am in the field of evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo). I am earning my PhD and I am trying to finish up my thesis so I can graduate and start my very own BAT LAB!!! To this end, I am currently running a crowdfunding campaign (ends Feb. 9th) for my vampire bat project (and I've already received 19% in funding, yay!). If interested in having an impact on research, please go to my page for more information on suggested donations: -->https://experiment.com/vampires

About my bat research project: In my lab, I study bat faces, how they evolve and how they develop. I specialize in neotropical leaf-nosed bats, which have a bizarre form of echolocation! They produce their echolocation calls out of their nose! What is really cool about the leaf-nosed bats, is that they have specialized to eat many different food types: insects, meat, fruit, pollen, nectar and EVEN BLOOD! Blood feeding in vampire bats is an amazing evolutionary novelty, no other vertebrate feeds exclusively on blood. Vampires have many unique adaptations for blood feeding and without a host, they will die, there is no alternative food source for a vampire. My question I seek to answer is: How do vampire faces originate? I use the development of the vampire face to directly observe what genes and developmental processes shape the face!

I look forward to any and all batty related questions or comments <*>

My Proof: https://flic.kr/p/R8vvss

What is this about crowdfunding experiments?

Experiment.com is a crowdfunding platform for research. The proposed project I have is to make a reference transcriptome for one species of bat, the common vampire bat. The idea for the crowdfunding is to generate funds for an experiment. As a grad student, there are alternative ways to get grant funding, but the more options you can have to generate for funds, the better! The crowdfunding sell, I guess, is to involve more people with your research. From the webpage "Scientists share progress, data, and results directly with backers, many widely available as open access and citeable. As a backer, you'll be able to see how much of a scientific impact you've made."

The majority of my research is funded by my own funding, through the NSF-DDIG and small grants here and there. Since I am still in the process of publishing my prior bat work with my advisor, we have not landed a big grant for bat only research, it will happen eventually fingers crossed.

Why I need your help:

I don't have many people to turn to for this type of crowdfunding.

My project is part of the "Evolution Challenge Grant", so the project with the most pledges is awarded the grant! I need help with this! I have 15 backers and the competition ends Jan. 25! The current person is leading with 21 backers.

Please help me to raise funds for my bat lab research on vampire bats. Even if you do not directly contribute, it would be so helpful to share my project with your family, friends, and teachers back home who may be interested in directly contributing to a research project. I need all the help I can get. Thank you for taking the time to read through this and I hope you can follow me on my twitter account (@batevodevo) for bat field updates!!!

About me

I am Chicana in my department (evolutionary biology). I proudly marched for "SCIENCE IS THE FUTURE" in the Boston's Women's March, but really I want to see a more inclusive SCIENCE community. We will get there.

I grew up impoverished (Salinas, CA (93905 zip)), so my family and teachers back home struggle. My community has to deal with shootings and other gang activities, so while my family and past teachers have been helping to spread the word on my project, there isn't much urgency to support science.

Q:

What's your favourite pizza topping?

A:

JalapeƱos and bacon


Q:

Are bats safe from humans?

A:

That is such a hard question to answer! Mostly, bats are safe from humans. They sleep in areas of caves generally inaccessible to humans. Bats are all over the world, so some bats are less safe: they are actively hunted or climate change is causing bats to see high temps they cannot cope with. If we keep growing the population and destroy forests for agriculture/housing, then bats and other animals will not be safe.


Q:

The crisis with flying foxes in Australia right now is heart breaking! It's so bad that the rescue workers are hoping for the babies to fall off their mums so they can help feed them. Thanks so much for doing this AMA, I'n getting my general ed done for wildlife biology right now and plan on specializing in bats.

A:

I agree. If I ever travel to Australia, I will offer help to bring bats for rehab. I imagine there will be a Bat Sanctuary that offers a fruit garden/trees for roosting so we are not waiting around for mothers to die...

That is exciting you plan to study bats! The bat research community is supportive and it is easy to get help! If you are in the US, please consider the North American Society for Bat Research national conference. We will be meeting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for 2018 and love seeing undergraduates there!


Q:

Oh a bat conference sounds amazing! Thanks so much for the support! I'm just going to leave a couple links here to my favorite bat rescue youtube channels, though you've probably come across them at some point. Good luck on your project, it sounds like an amazing topic! Megabattie and of course Batzilla!

A:

Thank you:)

Please consider supporting my project on https://experiment.com/vampires


Q:

Sad that the reason our planet is dying is because of us.

A:

We just need to start focusing on saving our planet. That is why it is so frightening that Climate Change Policy has been removed from the White House website. We are at a critical step for making steps toward saving our planet, but if we do nothing, it will be too late for future generations. It will be like WALL-E.


Q:

Hello Salinas,

I checked ur proof pic and noticed you have very batlike features. Not unattractive, just more similar to a bat then I would expect from random chance, especially the eyes. Considering you are also a bat researcher, it seems like to much of a coincidence. Care to reveal any genetic testing/alternations/hybridization that you may have underwent?

A:

Thanks! I always try to have my batty-self come through:)

All mammals share in the ways they make a face:same genes, same cells (neural crest), same process (growth and fusion of facial prominences) to name a few. While most mammals and bats have snouts, humans and some bats do not!

It is great that you pointed to the eyes, it is often never realized that some bats have large eyes (like the cute flying foxes).


Q:

what will you expect to see when you examine the pregnant cave bats?

A:

There are a few things I hope to find out for pregnant bats. 1) Distribution of pregnancy time points (the idea is vampires breed all year round and do not have 'seasons'). I expect to see variation based on cave location so that females of one cave will be more similar in pregnancy stage than another cave. This hypothesis is based on the fact that vampires have large 'maternal colonies' and help each other to raise their young. Imagine two friends wanting to have babies around the same time! 2) Proportion of pregnant bats (out of X encounters, how many are female and pregnant?) 3) Testing field-based methods for estimating pregnancy stage (testing out mobile ultrasound). Something like this: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/11/26/a0/1126a09df27368cae3dcead2c28bb4d9.jpg

4) Infection by parasites (idea that during pregnancy, the immune system is depressed). It would be interesting to see if these notoriously disease-"symptom free" bats have any change in immune response. This is a collaboration with an entomologists wanting to find 'bat flies'.


Q:

Hi, I'm an architecture student and have once been given a brief wherein I was given a chance to design a new home for bats, I didn't do it as I didn't have much information and research abou it at that time and you have risen my interest once again. What would I have had to design specifically for the needs of bats in a man-made "bat-cave"/"bat-house"?

A:

Oh that sounds like a cool design project:) first, it would depend on the bat guild. Many species can live in a cave, but there are a lot of species that do not and would not do well in a cave. For example, some bats roost in trees or make tents out of the leaves of a tree! I would need to know more about what species of bats would be in the cave. Some like it really hot (like squeezing in a tin roof on a hot summer day) while others like more open space.


Q:

What got you interested in bats in the first place?

A:

I am a mammal person (I love brains and middle ear bones). Bats are the most specialized and diverse group of mammals. Whales would be another great group to study, but it is hard to do any work with them. There is still so much we don't know about bats and I simply love how different bats are. The leaf-nosed bats are my favorite group of bats for their facial ornaments. Look at that face: https://static.inaturalist.org/photos/408360/medium.JPG?1373511268

Vampire bats are just another example of how amazingly different bats are to us!


Q:

Why bats?

A:

I have always loved studying mammals, even if it was just looking up photos and facts from library books. My fav. mammal as a kid was the cheetah, it is a beautiful animal. After owning a cat and dog, I started to appreciate how expressive animal faces were. I felt I could recognize certain emotional states just by looking at my dogs face (not so much for my cat, other than the eye narrowing!). Over time my interest went from animal behavior-->brain function-->brain development-->face development. I really like the Darwin's finch evolution story and I wanted to write the story about diverse mammalian faces. I learned about how diverse in diet leaf-nosed bats were, and it was easy to tell from the faces what they were eating! I saw the face of Macrotus waterhousii and I was in love:) https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/58/77/1c/58771c8f0b79f54315d2485774fd08f1.jpg


Q:

Usually you need to be vaccinated against rabies. It's rare that bats carry rabies, but you can catch it from being bitten or scratched through infected ones.

A:

Yes, saliva is the way to get rabies, and it is rare for a bat to have it.


Q:

tits or ass?

A:

bats have reduced hindlimbs. Butts are a bipedal great ape thing. Bats do have paired mammary glands.


Q:

What is your favorite species of bat and/or the one you find most interesting?


Q:

That's cool as shit man , do you have any pets ?

A:

I think so too! I am glad you had a chance to read my posting:)

I have a dog and I used to own a cat.