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Learning and working at XTBG

I realised it was about time I wrote about the work I have been doing here at XTBG. My purpose in coming to China was to improve my chances of progressing in the field of ecological research. I wanted to gain more experience of researching and working in international communities. Well, I can definitely say I achieved my goals! Watering: Tree seedlings at the plant nurseryWatering: Tree seedlings at the plant nursery

Over the last few months I have been working with Dr Alice Hughes and Dr Sophie Williams on a research project looking at how much bats are worth to agriculture. It turns out bats are pretty handy little creatures. They pollinate flowers, help plants spread their seeds, and eat insects that damage crops. For my project, I concentrated on the role of bats in controlling crop pests in Africa, and estimated two bat species (the lesser free-tailed bat and the Angolan free-tailed bat) were worth around $1.3 million (US) to the maize and sugar industry.

You may be wondering, “why Africa?” when I am surrounded by South East Asia, I know I would be. As my study relies entirely on data already collected and published online, geographic location isn’t an important factor. What is important is where people have collected data in the past. My original plan was to study bats around XTBG, but there were not enough data available. However, there were enough data for Africa. Don’t think I am unaware of the irony of coming to China to study African bats though!

What did I learn from my study? Well, I learnt a lot about using maps and models to understand ecological relationships. I also learnt about balancing multiple tasks effectively, for instance working on two different bat species while finding time to write PhD applications, care for seedlings in our nursery as part of a different project and take Chinese lessons. I am now writing my results up as a paper to publish in a scientific journal, a process which is teaching me a lot about how academic publishing works. This has been a very educational and rewarding trip.

Publication date: 24 February 2015

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