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1200 S. Jay St.
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Phone: 605-626-2552
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NSU student's bat project lures legislators
Small, elusive and few, bats can be hard to locate in South Dakota; but Northern State University student Brittany Hiten was up to the challenge.

Hiten, a senior biology and environmental science major from Rapid City, predicted and mapped bat habitat for a project she exhibited at the Feb. 27 South Dakota Student Research Poster Session. The annual session is designed to illustrate the link between research and higher education and allow policymakers to witness the results of an enhanced research culture in the state’s colleges and universities.

Hiten’s project, which won the NSU Undergraduate Research Forum, was one of 12 exhibited at the state Capitol in Pierre.

Water Buffalo or Bats
Hiten’s project started in her Geographic Information
Systems (mapmaking) class, in which students were told to choose water buffalo or bats for a habitat-predicting mapping project.

“We could pick any South Dakota bat; I picked the Long-eared Myotis,” said Hiten. Three to 4 inches long with brown to golden fur and large, coal-black ears, the myotis is extremely choosy about habitat. “It won’t live just anywhere,” she said, adding that the bat prefers to live near bridges, water and trees.

South Dakota-made Software
Using software by esri, Hiten entered the bat’s habitat preferences and restricted them in different ways to define and limit the results. She also added state GIS data from other sources.

She began with the 5,000 known bridges in South Dakota and narrowed them by material – the bat prefers a home in material that will crack, such as wood or masonry.

Hiten had to dig deep into printed research to find the crucial statistic that pinpointed the Long-eared Myotis’ habitat.

“I lacked data … but did not want to make it up, so I researched and researched until I found the .37 to .38 miles, which allowed me to narrow it down,” said Hiten.  “They’ll only travel .37 to .38 miles from their roost to their water or food source.”

Black Hills Bat
Hiten’s map predicted that Myotis habitat would be largely isolated to the Black Hills area, with a small pocket near Pierre and another in the state’s northwest corner. Maps by the S.D. GAP Analysis Project confirmed her prediction.

“That’s not to say they’re not in Aberdeen, but it’s not very likely,” she said.

Hiten said she had a good time with her project. “Most fun was playing with the program. Before, I felt the GIS class was very land-based and would not be applicable to me, but now I could definitely see myself using this,” said Hiten, who plans a career in marine sciences. “I really enjoyed getting to understand the program, and I can see myself applying for jobs using ArcGIS.”

Good Time with Legislators
Hiten enjoyed showing and explaining her project to legislators in Pierre.

“Some people may feel legislators don’t pay attention to us because we are just students, but they really showed a lot of interest.

“I went with a great group of faculty, and I’ll always remember it.”