Alabama Power volunteers build bat boxes; Capstone students make them pretty

As bat enthusiasts around the world pause this week to recognize the importance of these flying mammals during Bat Week, 24-31. October, Alabama Power volunteers contributed to bat support and bat awareness efforts in Alabama.

Volunteers from the Environmental Affairs and Corporate Real Estate departments, along with employees involved in three leadership development programs, joined forces to build 30 bat boxes.

Alabama Power employees build bat boxes to support these important animals. (Katherine Beshear/Alabama NewsCenter)

A few days later, more than 35 students from Birmingham’s Cornerstone Academy Middle School in the Woodlawn community put their creative stamp on the boxes during art class. Designs ranged from abstract splashes to polka dots, sunsets to nature scenes including bats. Students planned to vote on their favorite bat box piece, with the winning box to be installed in the school.

Meanwhile, Alabama Power biologist Jeff Baker presented Cornerstone students with information about bats and their importance during their science class. Baker is an active member of the Alabama Bat Working Group, a coalition of local bat experts, government agencies, conservation organizations and nonprofits working to build awareness and gather scientific information about Alabama’s bat population to promote their conservation and health.

Alabama Power volunteers support bat education and conservation from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

“Bats are a vital part of our ecosystem, but many species are facing significant declines due to the biological threat of white-nose syndrome,” said Jason Carlee, Alabama Power’s Environmental Affairs Manager. The deadly fungus without treatment has been identified in more than half of the US states, including Alabama. To date, it has killed millions of bats.

Capstone students placed their artistic vision on bat boxes. (Isabel Rothschadel/Alabama NewsCenter)

“Building bat roost boxes is an excellent way to highlight the importance of bats and provide local bat populations with a conservation benefit,” said Carlee.

Bat boxes can help replace lost or degraded habitat that contributes to declining bat populations in North America. According to the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, more than half of bat species in the United States are on the decline or listed as endangered.

Minus one bat box to be installed at a Cornerstone school, the other boxes built this month by Alabama Power volunteers and Cornerstone students will be delivered to locations across the state, including nature preserves. Volunteers from Alabama Power will help install the boxes.

Alabama is home to 16 Alabama bat species, three of which—the gray bat, the Indiana bat, and the northern bat—are listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. All bat species in Alabama are insectivores and help control mosquitoes and other pests. Some bat species are pollinators; they play an important role – along with other pollinators such as bees – in the reproduction of plants, including food crops.

Those who know them think bats are beautiful, and for many good reasons. (Jacksonville State University)

Last summer, biologists from Alabama were among the participants in a “bat attack” coordinated through the Southeastern Bat Diversity Network (SBDN). The event, in which bat experts spend several nights carefully trapping bats and then releasing them after collecting data, has returned to Alabama for the first time since 2016. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in the US also participated in the blitz. Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service and Alabama A&M University along with experts from across the Southeast.

Alabama Power and its parent company, Southern Company, are supporting research to find a cure for white-nose syndrome through the Bats for the Future Fund, which is coordinated by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Keystone Principal Bill Sellers said the bat box project is an opportunity to educate students about these remarkable creatures and their importance to the planet.

“When we think of bats, we usually associate them with something scary. Through this bat box project with Alabama Power, Cornerstone students learned that bats play a unique, God-given role in the environment by serving as pollinators and eating pests. Through this activity, our students are helping to protect the environment of these amazing mammals.”

Learn more about Alabama Power’s environmental stewardship efforts here. You can learn more about the volunteering of the company’s employees and pensioners here.

Katherine Beshear, Brittany Faush and Isabel Rothschadl contributed to this report.

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