Use of smartphones in science

Evaluation of low cost and accessible methods to identify and study roosting bats

  • Shem David Unger Wingate University
  • Caleb Hickman Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, Cherokee, North Carolina, USA
  • Kevin Murray Western EcoSystems Technology, Inc., Bloomington, Indiana, 47404, USA


Documentation of bat behavior at colonial roosts presents challenges to researchers with limited financial resources. Emerging technologies may allow researchers to conduct studies of bat identification, thermal ecology, and behavior with minimal investment. We assessed the deployment of a low-cost, minimally invasive night vision camera, thermal imaging camera, and hand-held bat detector and associated smartphone applications to identify and record nocturnal and diurnal activity patterns of the Black Myotis bat (Myotis nigricans) at a roost associated with urban dwellings in Panama. We documented eighty-four individual observations of bat behavior over four days with a low cost night vision camera, including exit and return flights to roost, flights inside and outside of roost, and documentation of bats flying immediately after one another (trailing). In addition, we successfully measured the temperature of roost and both single and multiple bats inside and outside of roost using the FLIRONE thermal camera. Moreover, we confirmed echolocation calls recorded by the handheld smartphone acoustic detector Echo Meter Touch 2 for roost species identification. Incorporation of these affordable and accessible technologies may allow both researchers and citizen scientists to study the behavior and thermal ecology of small colonies of bats in tropical ecosystems.

Dec 30, 2019
How to Cite
UNGER, Shem David; HICKMAN, Caleb; MURRAY, Kevin. Use of smartphones in science. ECOTROPICA, [S.l.], v. 21, p. 201907, dec. 2019. ISSN 2699-1454. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 29 jan. 2020.
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