Bat Acoustic Monitoring Workshop for Canadian Maritime Indigenous Organizations

Elder Sarah Stewart-Jackson
performing a traditional song.
Photo by: Scott McBurney

The Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC), Atlantic Region partnered with the Native Council of Prince Edward Island (NCPEI) to host a bat acoustic monitoring workshop specifically designed for Indigenous groups from the Canadian Maritime provinces. STEAM PEI provided an excellent space to accommodate the workshop, located in the Epekwitk Assembly of Councils Building in Charlottetown, PEI.

Seven dedicated participants from four different Indigenous organizations representing all three Maritime provinces came for a two-day workshop from March 22nd to 23rd, 2023.  This workshop prioritized Indigenous culture and Indigenous perspectives in western science in the context of in-depth training on acoustic monitoring of bats. This group was brought together by a passion for wildlife conservation and a love of bats. 

Myotis species flying. Photo by: Jordi Segers.

Three of the seven bat species found in Atlantic Canada are listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act as their populations have been decimated by a fungal disease, white-nose syndrome, compounded by other threats, such as habitat loss, wind turbine mortalities, and human disturbance. There are also three migratory species being assessed due to many of the same threats. Therefore, the importance of monitoring bat populations cannot be understated. Data from monitoring bats can help better inform and evaluate conservation and recovery actions, ultimately providing those with the jurisdictional responsibility for managing endangered bat species the critical information they need for evidence-based decision-making.

The workshop began with an impactful indigenous opening ceremony led by Elders Sarah Stewart-Jackson and Stephenson Joe. This included a smudging ceremony, performing traditional songs to the beat of drums, and a blessing for the workshop and participants. Specific encouragement was offered to remind us of our responsibility to be stewards of the land and all the creatures within.

Enooyaq Sudlovenick presenting to
the workshop participants. Photo
by: Scott McBurney.

With the Elders’ inspiring wisdom in mind, Enooyaq Sudlovenick, a previous graduate of AVC, UPEI and a PhD Student at University of Manitoba presented on Indigenous perspectives in western science. Enoo’s research uses Indigenous Traditional Knowledge (ITK) to study beluga whale health in the Eastern Beaufort Sea and Western Hudson Bay, which she tied into a discussion on the importance of ITK, opportunities to incorporate western science with Indigenous methodologies, and community-based research.

The remainder of the workshop maintained this Indigenous focus and was led by Jordi Segers (CWHC National Office) and Darrian Washinger (CWHC Atlantic), with additional support provided by Dr. Scott McBurney (CWHC Atlantic, retired). Jordi and Darrian provided information on the ecology and biology of Atlantic Canada’s bat species, the North American Bat Monitoring Program’s (NABat) standardized protocol, and analyses of acoustic data. Though the information was focused primarily on western science, there was specific intent to consider and adapt it in the context of ITK and the unique research goals of the individual organizations represented at the workshop.

Workshop participants learning how to identify bat species based on their echolocation calls. Photo by: Scott McBurney.

The topics were highly technical in nature, but the participants demonstrated engagement, comprehension, and proficiency by asking excellent questions and sharing stories related to their experiences in the field. By the end of the workshop, all participants enthusiastically signed up to be a part of the NABat Atlantic Canada Regional Hub, led by the CWHC Atlantic team. This hub supports regional NABat activities by hosting monthly meetings to ensure standardized acoustic monitoring, share monitoring equipment, and encourage collaboration throughout the region. We are always excited to see new faces participating in our NABat community sessions and facilitate collaboration opportunities.

The workshop was closed with another meaningful ceremony by Elder Sarah Stewart-Jackson, and the thoughts she shared perfectly summarized our mutual experience in partnership, including our respect for the bat species we are tasked to protect. The CWHC, Atlantic is thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with NCPEI on this workshop and will continue to partner in future opportunities.

This workshop wouldn’t be possible without funding provided by NCPEI and CWHC Atlantic’s project entitled “Essential Services for the Health and Conservation of Atlantic Canadian Endangered Bat Species”, funded by Environment and Climate Change Canada, New Brunswick Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, Newfoundland and Labrador Forestry and Wildlife Branch, Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry, Prince Edward Island Forests, Fish and Wildlife Division, and Prince Edward Island Watershed Alliance.

Submitted by: Darrian Washinger, CWHC Atlantic

Workshop participants for the 2023 Bat Acoustic Monitoring Workshop. From left to right: Darrian Washinger, Jordi Segers, Clara-Jane Wood, James Fraser, Sam Rogers, Michelle Knockwood, Elder Sarah Stewart-Jackson, Joady Marshall, and JerryLee Dennis. Not photographed: Devon Polchies. Photo by: Scott McBurney.

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