Rachael Block wants to change your opinion about bats. She knows that if you're like most people, bats probably fall somewhere between weird and downright frightening on your radar. But this 14-year-old from Fairfax, Virginia, knows there's so much more to bats than their Halloween persona. That's why she's been working tirelessly for years to teach people about bats. And it's why she has joined forces with other bat-loving teens around the country to take part in a free online webcast series to celebrate bats for Bat Week.
Block is one of eight teens from across the United States who make up the Bat Squad, which is hosting a free online webcast this week for Bat Week, Oct. 24-31. "There’s a Shark Week. Bats deserve a week, too, that’s just all about them," said Block.
In the series, Block and her Bat Squad counterparts are diving into the benefits of bats, their habitats and the threats they face. They're also talking about work each of the teens is doing to get more people involved in conservation. For Block, that involves writing a weekly blog about bats called the "Baturday News" for a local bat conservation organization called the Save Lucy Campaign.
Are you ready to have your mind changed about bats? Block was kind enough to answer a few questions about the group's mission and to offer a sneak peek into the wonderful world of bats:
MNN: What sparked your interest in bats?
Rachael Block: I got excited about bats because they were living outside my front door. We would have to walk by them to get into the house. It was a lot of fun to watch them in the evening because they would wake up and squeak at me. They were fun to watch because they all had different personalities. Some liked to be looked at and some hid. It was a lot of fun to watch them climb up the brick wall because I could see their wings. Their wings are fascinating!
What's the most important thing you think people should know about bats?
I think everyone should know how important bats are. The bats that we have around here are all insectivores. Each of them can eat over 1,000 insects in an hour. That is a lot of bugs! And they eat bugs that humans don't really want around. Other bats eat fruit and pollinate plants that people eat. Bats play a very important role in our ecosystem. I think if people knew how important they are, they would do more to help them. And maybe, they wouldn't be so scared of them.
How did you get involved in writing a weekly blog about bat conservation?
When I was in the sixth grade, I read an article about a local bat rehabilitator in the newspaper and thought it would be fun to volunteer for her. I really wanted to help her take care of the sick and injured bats, but there are laws about how old you have to be and other qualifications that a sixth grader doesn't have. The rehabilitator, Mrs. Leslie Sturges [also president of the Save Lucy Campaign board] was very nice and found a job that I was qualified for. She needed someone to write a weekly blog that would teach kids about how amazing bats are and about white-nose syndrome, the disease that is killing bats. I started volunteering for the Save Lucy Campaign and had so much fun learning about the bats that I kept doing it. I've learned a lot! And I've gotten to participate in a lot of fun experiences because of my blog.
Do you have a favorite bat fact or trivia tidbit that you'd like to share?
Bats may have been around since the time of the dinosaurs. DNA evidence shows that they have been around for at least 33 million years. And they haven't really changed all that much in all those millions of years.
Tune in to the Bat Week webcast to learn more about these fascinating fliers. The webcasts will air on BatWeek.org at 1 p.m. EST from Oct. 25 through Oct. 28. Each webcast consists of 15 minutes of bat-tastic footage streamed live, along with matching classroom activities geared towards Next Generation Science Standards.