Lawrence’s annual Report to the Community showcases some of the meaningful connections made between the college and the Fox Valley during the past year. This year’s event, held at the Warch Campus Center in October, put the spotlight on several collaborative efforts. They are extraordinary examples of community engagement—and of the positive things that can happen when great people and good ideas come together.
Going to Bat for Heckrodt
“Batty” things are afoot at Heckrodt Wetland Reserve, the beautiful 76-acre Menasha nature preserve. Building on a longstanding relationship, Heckrodt and Lawrence have joined forces to form the Fox Valley Bat Monitoring Project, a citizen-based program spearheaded by Tracey Koenig, Heckrodt’s executive director, and Jodi Sedlock, associate professor of biology at Lawrence.
Often associated with spooky films and superheroes, bats play an important role in our ecosystem, consuming large quantities of insects that can carry disease and destroy crops. With the local bat population facing two deadly threats—wind turbines, which kill thousands of bats annually, and white-nose fungus, a disease that awakens bats from hibernation and forces fat depletion before spring—the Fox Valley Bat Monitoring Project contributes directly to the statewide bat monitoring effort, and participants hope to the eventual adoption of more bat-friendly policies and practices nationwide.
Under Sedlock’s supervision, Lawrence student researchers Ronan Christman ’13 and Xavier Al-Mateen ’13 trained passionate volunteers—local families, students and other community members—to monitor and count bats at Heckrodt. The data collected by these volunteers went to Sedlock’s lab, where Christman analyzed it to identify bat calls and map bat activity. Given the program’s success at Heckrodt, Sedlock said plans are in the works for extending the citizen bat-monitoring to other protected places like Mosquito Hill Nature Center, 1000 Islands Environmental Center, High Cliff State Park and Bubolz Nature Preserve.
“The partnership between Heckrodt Wetland Reserve and Lawrence University provides an opportunity for area residents to become directly involved through citizen science,” Koenig said. “What better way to promote environmental protection and to develop good stewards of our environment?”
Professors are not the only scholars getting their feet wet at Heckrodt. Caitie Williamson ’11, a biology major and environmental studies minor, created the preserve’s Teacher Naturalist Program, recruiting and training more than 60 Lawrence students to serve as teacher naturalists who share their knowledge of nature with local children and families. “As volunteers,” Williamson said, “the Lawrence students brought to Heckrodt their passion for the outdoors, and being able to share that with children from the community was an incredibly rewarding experience.”