Previous Kate Barlow Award Winners

2019 winner - Benneth Obitte

2019 winner - Benneth Obitte

Benneth is using an innovative socio-ecological approach to evaluate the drivers of bat hunting and meat consumption in southern Nigeria, particularly of the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus).

About 20% of sub-Saharan bat species are hunted, with large-bodied fruit bats being the most targeted. In southern Nigeria, the Egyptian fruit bat is a cave dependent species and is critical for pollination and seed dispersal of ecologically and economically important plants. Unfortunately it is also a target of widespread hunting. A survey conducted in Boki and Obanliku Local Government Areas (southern Nigeria) in 2016 reported that 72% of respondents hunted bats at least once in the previous year, and most of these efforts occurred in caves – with offtake levels reaching over 1500 individuals per day from a single cave. This high offtake could cause the breakdown of bat-plant ecological networks, and there is an urgent need for a population assessment where they may have been hunted to critical low levels. Benneth's research will help to shape conservation plans, implement effective conservation education and outreach programs as well as engaging other stakeholders on the importance of cave roost protection.

2018 winner - Laura Pulscher

2018 winner - Laura Pulscher

Laura's project formed part of her PhD at the University of Sydney on the Christmas Island Flying-Fox (Pteropus melanotus natalis) (CIFF). The Christmas Island Flying-fox is the last endemic mammal on Christmas Island (CI), is critically endangered and is still declining. Nutritional imbalances stemming from preferential consumption of introduced plants have been theorized as a contributing factor to its decline. With help from the Kate Barlow Award, this study aimed to determine how CIFFs historically utilized native plants to meet their nutritional requirements and if nutritional content of non-native food plants differ from native food plants.

Nutritional analysis of native food sources indicated that CIFFs historically obtained the bulk of their energy from fruit and nectar, however these food sources have minimal protein and calcium. Therefore, CIFFs likely supplemented their diets with leaves, petioles, stems, and pollen which are rich sources of essential minerals and protein. In comparison to native fruits, non-native fruit, on average, contained less protein and essential minerals but higher carbohydrates. Thus, if the CIFF is preferentially consuming non-native food plants they may not meet nutritional requirements or they may overconsume carbohydrates in order to meet protein demands, resulting in obesity. A few non-native fruit species had nutritional content similar to native fruit and therefore may be an important non-native food source for CIFF. This study recommends that, when choosing plants to re-vegetate areas, native food plants or non-native food plants with similar nutritional profiles are used to maximize nutrition.

2017 winner - Kristen Lear

2017 winner - Kristen Lear

Update: Click HERE for the latest project update from Kristen, and watch a short documentary about her project HERE

Kristen's project focuses on conserving the endangered Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis). This species is a rare but vital pollinator, classified as endangered by the IUCN due to drastic declines of over 50% in the past 10 years - a decline expected to continue without immediate conservation action. Each spring, the females migrate 1200 km northward from central Mexico to northeast Mexico and the U.S. southwest, where they give birth to their young. During their journey, they rely on the nectar and pollen of agave plants for food, and during foraging provide critical pollination services to the plants which are of vital ecological, cultural and economical value. Kristen's project aims to implement community bat-friendly agave management programs in northeast Mexico.