All about Bats

Carlsbad Bat Caverns, Montana via Bing

Bat caves:
Bats stay up all night catching bugs,  during daylight hours, bats lead a completely different life. A bat will pass the time hanging upside down from a secluded spot, such as the roof of a cave, the underside of a bridge or the inside of a hollowed-out tree.

Bats hanging upside down via Bing

There are a couple of different reasons why bats roost this way. First of all, it puts them in an ideal position for takeoff. Unlike birds, bats can’t launch themselves into the air from the ground. Their wings don’t produce enough lift to take off from a dead stop, and their hind legs are so small and underdeveloped that they can’t run to build up the necessary takeoff speed. Instead, they use their front claws to climb to a high spot, and then fall into flight. By sleeping upside down in a high location, they are all set to launch if they need to escape the roost.

How Bats Work
The Brown Bat is one of the most common bat species in North and South America. It roost in large colonies, often in attics, barns and other man-made structures. via Georgia Museum of Natural History

Hanging upside down is also a great way to hide from danger. During the hours when most predators are active (particularly birds of prey), bats congregate where few animals would think to look and most can’t reach. Effectively, this allows them to disappear from the world until night comes again. There’s also little competition for these roosting spots, as other flying animals don’t have the ability to hang upside down.

Bats have a special physiological adaptation that enables them to hang around this way. For you to clench your fist around an object, you contract several muscles in your arm, which are connected to your fingers by tendons; as one muscle contracts, it pulls a tendon, which pulls one of your fingers closed. A bat’s talons close in the same way, except that their tendons are connected only to the upper body, not to a muscle.

To hang upside down, a bat flies into position, opens its claws and finds a surface to grip. To get the talons to grab hold of the surface, the bat simply lets its body relax. The weight of the upper body pulls down on the tendons connected to the talons, causing them to clench. Since it is gravity that keeps the talons closed, instead of a contracted muscle, the bat doesn’t have to exert any energy to hang upside down. In fact, a bat will continue to hang upside down if it dies in that position. To release the surface it is gripping, the bat flexes other muscles that pull its talons open.

Most bat species will roost in the same location every night, joining a large colony of bats that cluster together for warmth and security. Bats have been known to demonstrate remarkable acts of altruism to support the colony. In some cases, when a bat is ill and cannot hunt for its own food, other bats from the colony will bring food back to it. Scientists don’t fully understand the dynamics of bat colonies, but they are clearly complex, tight-knit social communities.

Like all mammals, bats are warm-blooded, meaning they maintain their body temperature internally. But unlike most mammals, bats allow their body temperature to sink to the ambient temperature when they are not active. As their temperature drops, they enter a torpor state, in which their metabolism slows down. By reducing their biological activity and not maintaining a warm body temperature, bats conserve energy. This is important, as flying all night is extremely hard work.

During the winter, when temperatures are cold for months at a time, some bats will enter a deeper torpor state called hibernation. This allows them to live through the months in which food is very scarce. Other bat species follow a yearly migration pattern, traveling to cooler climates in the warm months and warmer climates in the cool months. This is why some regions experience “bat seasons” every year.

When bats do come to town, a lot of people are made uneasy in the evening and at night. They worry about bats biting, sucking blood and even getting caught up in people’s hair. But as it turns out, all of these occurrences are extremely rare. As we’ll see in the next section, bats are usually harmless to people, and many species are actually beneficial. Article courtesy of:

Video shows bear walking in hallway at Montana high school

Courtesy of: google free pics

BOZEMAN, Mont. — A black bear was spotted walking down the hallway at a high school in Montana on Wednesday morning, according to multiple media reports.

The bear entered the school through an open garage door in the back of the building at around 7:30 a.m.

The bear exited the school through an open door after about a minute of walking the hallways.

Officials forced the bear out of the school but it was not captured.

Source: Video shows bear walking in hallway at Montana high school

Record breaking HEAT is Resulting Wildfire Damage & Destruction

Western Wildfires Update: Record $243 Million Spent Battling Forest Fires Last Week. Courtesy of:   
Good News in Forecast for Firefighters in Northwest

Cooler and wetter weather in the Northwest will be good news for those fighting several wildfires in the region.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed Thursday a record $243 million was spent last week combatting wildfires raging around the country.

The U.S. Forest Service has been forced to borrow funds from forest restoration work, normally used to reduce the risk of wildfires, as it has already spent all the money allotted by Congress for its 12-month budget. Vilsack noted this has happened the past six of 10 years.

Much to his chagrin, Vilsack said the agency will likely be forced to borrow more funds and continue to expect spending $200 million a week battling the blazes.

(MORE: Air Quality Worse in Some Northwestern Towns Than Beijing)

Firefighters have been making more gains on two massive wildfires burning in north-central Washington.

As of late Thursday night, the Okanogan Complex was 60 percent contained but has grown to nearly 150,000 acres. Last week, it became the largest wildfire in state history.

Officials are managing the complex of fires as one fire, including the Chelan Complex. That particular fire was 70 percent contained and had burned more than 93,000 acres as of Thursday night.

Nearly 2,000 firefighters are working on the two big fire complexes that have burned more than 140 residences. Many other residents are still under evacuation notices.

Fire officials say they are both building lines around the fires and mopping up inside their borders.

Wildfires have taken their toll on the Western landscape this year. They’ve reduced entire neighborhoods to ash, forced thousands to evacuate and required a nonstop battle from countless firefighters, some who have come from other countries to help.

And there’s no indication that fire season is letting up at all.

More than 8.2 million acres have burned in U.S. wildfires this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That’s well above the 10-year average of about 5.57 million acres through Sept. 2. As the Washington Post notes, that’s larger than the total area of Maryland.

There has also been a human toll during this fire season. Five firefighters have been killed in the line of duty this year, according to Wildfire Today. A year ago, there were 10 wildfire-related firefighter deaths, NIFC reported.

There are currently dozens of large wildfires burning across the West; here’s an update on a few of them.


A massive Butte fire burned more than 50,000 acres across the counties of Amador and Calaveras near Sacramento.

The blaze has already destroyed 6 structures and was only 10% contained as of September 11. Evacuations were ordered for both counties and over 1,500 fire personnel were dispatched to fight the growing fire.

Officials reported that the steep topography in the area mixed with harsh weather conditions is making the fire grow at an unprecedented rate.


Firefighters battling a destructive wildfire near John Day are allowing people who have been evacuated for weeks to return to their homes.

The last evacuation alerts were lifted Wednesday, but residents in several neighborhoods were told to be ready to leave on short notice.

The fire has destroyed 43 homes and burned more than 165 square miles. It is 52 percent contained.

Crews focused Wednesday on containing spot fires that broke out beyond the containment lines during a period of hotter temperatures and lower humidity Tuesday. They were hopeful that cooler, more humid conditions Wednesday would allow firefighters to control the flames and strengthen their containment lines.


Fire crews are aggressively working to prevent flames from expanding on a 3-week-old blaze in west-central Idaho that has already burned 143 square miles of dry timber.

More than 900 firefighters are battling the fire, but it was only 30 percent contained. It’s burning in terrain surrounded by large amounts of unburned fuel.

Crews focused their efforts Wednesday on protecting structures along the Salmon River corridor, and rafters were still being stopped and evacuated before entering the fire perimeter.

In northern Idaho, flames crept overnight as close as a mile and a half to the historic Fenn Ranger Station, causing mandatory evacuations.

Idaho currently has 17 large fires, the most in the nation, the National Interagency Fire Center says.


A firefighter working to battle a wildfire north of Helena has been hospitalized after an ATV crash.

The Helena Independent Record reports that the injured man was adjusting hoses in steep terrain Wednesday at the time of the accident. A nearby firefighter/EMT helped with emergency care before the man was taken to a medical facility in Helena.

A Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation spokeswoman declined to comment on how the accident occurred. Officials have not released the injured man’s name.

By Associated Press
Published Sep 11 2015 06:18 PM EDT

MSU News – MSU chemists solve long-standing problem, explained in international journal

BOZEMAN, MT – A Montana State University team says it has discovered the grail of organic chemistry and has just published a paper about its accomplishment in one of the field’s top journals.

The paper by professor Tom Livinghouse and graduate students Bryce Sunsdahl and Adrian Smith appears in the Dec. 22 issue of the German chemistry journalAngewandte Chemie.

First published online in October, the highly technical paper explains how the team in MSU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry developed an inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to sequentially produce carbon-nitrogen and carbon-carbon bonds commonly found in antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals for humans and animals.

Organic chemists often produce a mixture of unneeded products in the process of making the one they want, Livinghouse explained. As a result, they often throw much material away and keep the one they want.

To solve that long-standing problem, Livinghouse said the MSU group developed a one-step process that largely eliminates waste products. The process is extremely efficient, and it saves time and money. Livinghouse describes it as green chemistry because the process is non-toxic and produces few byproducts. If done right, it minimizes the needs for external solvents. Scientists get “two bonds for the price of one.”

The MSU team isn’t the first to come up with the idea, but the techniques developed by other groups over the past 15 years have had very limited application, Livinghouse said.

“What we did can apply to a great many pharmaceuticals,” he said.

Livinghouse said he came up with the idea about three years ago, but he praised his graduate students for making it happen over the past year. He said their work in the lab was critical to the success of the project and the newly published paper.

“Only with the very best graduate students can you do this,” Livinghouse said. “I’m very proud of my students.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” he added. “That’s what science is all about. That’s what the university is all about.”

The paper was Sunsdahl’s first published paper. When he learned it had been accepted for publication, Sunsdahl said, “I celebrated by doing more chemistry.”

Sunsdahl, who is listed as first author of the paper, said his main role in the breakthrough described in Angewandte Chemie was developing and streamlining the methodology for the new chemical reaction.

Sunsdahl is pursuing doctoral degree in organic chemistry and plans to graduate in the spring. With his family in St. Cloud, Minn., and only seeing them every few weeks, he said he often works late into the night in Livinghouse’s laboratory.

Smith from Escanaba, Mich., is working on his doctorate in organic chemistry and also plans to graduate in the spring.

“This is my third publication, but definitely the most prestigious one I have been a part of,” Smith said.

Livinghouse has been published once before in Angewandte Chemie, but he said the potential impact of his latest paper is much more significant than the first. In fact, he submitted his paper to the German journal because it is the most select journal in the field of organic chemistry. After learning the paper had been accepted for publication, Livinghouse said he was pleased by the recognition.

“We have been doing great chemistry in my group and throughout the department for a great many years,” he said.

MSU News – MSU chemists solve long-standing problem, explain in international journal.

MSU News – MSU researchers publish paper on the optics of Yellowstone thermal springs

BOZEMAN MT – Researchers with Montana State University’s College of Engineering have used optical technology to create a simple mathematical model to explain how temperature and chemical composition in Yellowstone’s thermal springs combine to give them their amazing colors. The model can be used to visually recreate how the springs appeared years ago, before decades of contamination from make-a-wish coins and other man-made detritus.

A paper authored by Joe Shaw, professor at Montana State University and director of the university’s Optical Technology Center, along with his doctoral student Paul Nugent and visiting German colleague Michael Vollmer, details the new model and showcases images of the springs. The paper appeared recently in the journal Applied Optics, which is published by the Optical Society (OSA).

“This is a paper that showcases MSU’s strength in optical science with the locally interesting application of better understanding Yellowstone’s hot springs,” Shaw said. “Researchers at MSU have explored Yellowstone’s thermal pools for decades, bringing us historic scientific discoveries and some of the most important lines of inquiry MSU has ever undertaken. Meanwhile, MSU’s optical science and engineering researchers have pushed the envelope of how we can measure of our world with laser and thermal imaging technology. It is exciting to see the two disciplines overlap.”

Yellowstone National Park is a geothermal wonderland, with Grand Prismatic Spring and its neighbors acting as envoys, steaming in front of visitors’ cameras and often gracing the internet with their ethereal beauty. While the basic physical phenomena that render these colorful delights have long been scientifically understood — they arise because of a complicated interplay of underwater vents and lawns of bacteria — no mathematical model existed that showed empirically how the physical and chemical variables of a pool relate to their optical factors and coalesce in the unique, stunning fashion that they do.

“What we were able to show is that you really don’t have to get terribly complex – you can explain some very beautiful things with relatively simple models,” Shaw said.

Using a relatively simple one-dimensional model for light propagation, the group was able to reproduce the brilliant colors and optical characteristics of Yellowstone National Park’s hot springs by accounting for each pool’s spectral reflection due to microbial mats, their optical absorption and scattering of water and the incident solar and diffuse skylight conditions present when measurements were taken.

“When we started the study, it was clear we were just doing it for fun,” Vollmer said. But they quickly discovered there was very little in the scientific literature on the subject. That’s when things got interesting.

In the summer of 2012, Vollmer, on sabbatical from the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences, travelled with Shaw and Nugent to the park.  Using handheld spectrometers, digital SLR cameras for visible images and infrared thermal imaging cameras for non-contact measurement of the water temperatures, the group took measurements at a number of pools in Yellowstone, including Morning Glory Pool, Sapphire Pool and Grand Prismatic Spring. Using these data, along with previously available information about the physical dimensions of the pools, they were able to create a simple model whose renderings of the pools were strikingly similar to actual photographs.

In the case of Morning Glory Pool, they were even able to simulate what the pool once looked like between the 1880’s and 1940’s, when its temperatures were significantly higher. During this time, its waters appeared a uniform deep blue. An accumulation of coins, trash and rocks over the intervening decades has partially obscured the underwater vent, lowering the pool’s overall temperature and shifting its appearance to a terrace of orange-yellow-green. This change from blue was demonstrated to result from the change in composition of the microbial mats, as a result of the lower water temperature.

A general relationship between shallow water temperature (hence microbial mat composition) and observed colors was confirmed in this study. However, color patterns observed in deeper segments of the pool are caused more by absorption and scattering of light in the water. These characteristics – mats having greater effect on color in shallow water, and absorption and scattering winning out in the deeper areas – are consistent across all the measured pools.

“Our paper describes a very simple, one-dimensional model, that gives the first clue if you really want to do more,” Vollmer said.

“We didn’t start this project as experts on thermal pools,” Shaw said. “We started this project as experts on optical phenomena and imaging, and so we had a lot to learn.”

“There are people at my university who are world experts in the biological side of what’s going on in the pools,” Shaw said. “They’re looking for ways to monitor changes in the biology – when the biology changes, that causes color changes – so we’re actually looking at possibilities of collaborating in the future.”

Nugent, Vollmer and Shaw are continuing their research, delving further into infrared imaging at Yellowstone National Park.

Contact: Joe Shaw, (406) 994-7261,

MSU News – MSU researchers publish paper on the optics of Yellowstone thermal springs.

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