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Forest Technology Students Conduct Annual Cleanup of ‘Bat Condo’

Jack E. Fisher (in green) and Donald Nibert relate the bat-house back story Students Angela M. Poleto and Corey J. Randall don hazmat suits for their afternoon cleanup assignment Students sweep inch-thick bat guano into buckets for weighing Classmates collect droppings that fell onto a ground tarp during the broom-out A Game Commission employee displays some of the guano harvested from the 'bat condo' “When you signed up for my class, I bet you never thought you’d be doing this,” forestry instructor Jack E. Fisher told two Penn College students, while they gamely swept bat droppings into buckets Monday. Yet it was not an unexpected exercise, given the institution’s hands-on hallmark, as students across the college’s eight academic schools routinely engage in practical application of classroom learning. Protectively clad to prevent inhalation and other exposure, the forest technology students in Fisher’s Wildlife Management course Angela M. Poleto,of Lock Haven, and Corey J. Randall, of Muncy cleared 53 pounds of guano from a bat house erected in 2002 to relocate a colony that had infested the nearby Maple Hill United Methodist Church in Brady Township. The house was built in the School of Natural Resources Management under the supervision of now-retired faculty member Donald Nibert, on hand for this week’s on-site maintenance. From the latest total, down from the 58.6 pounds collected a year ago, Nibert extrapolated that 3,000 bats occupied the “condo” last season. The guano will be sent to the Pennsylvania Game Commission in Harrisburg, where researchers are studying the cause of the White Nose Syndrome that is decimating hibernating colonies of little brown bats throughout the Northeast. “This is not a great reduction in our numbers,” Nibert noted. “But White Nose Syndrome has been confirmed in Lycoming County and it’s bound to have an effect.” Wildlife officials are concerned about the biodiversity imbalance wrought by a widespread death of bats, which can consume nearly their own weight in insects nightly.