Luther College studying wind turbine's impact on local bats

Wind energy is becoming a prominent feature of both economic and visual landscapes across the United States. Wind turbines, like the one here in Decorah, are a sustainable energy resource, and help keep our air clean by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But what effects do they have on the local wildlife, and how can any threats be minimized?

This summer, the Luther College Biology Department is investigating the Luther College wind turbine's impact on bats. Dawn Reding, Luther visiting assistant professor in biology, and students Mariah Crotty and Andrea Malek are using several methods to survey bat populations and estimate bat mortality caused by the sweeping rotor blades.

Three acoustic monitoring sites have been set up around Decorah to learn more about species presence and abundance, and the researchers are conducting daily searches around the turbine to look for bat carcasses. Eight species have been detected in the area, and each detector has recorded from 50 to 600 bat calls per night this summer. Although a few carcasses have been found beneath the wind turbine, additional monitoring and analysis will be necessary to better estimate the turbine's impact.

Bats are a very important part of the environment, and eat annoying insects, with some species eating 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes in a single hour.

With their work, the researchers aim to learn more about the bats in northeastern Iowa and provide information needed to lessen human impact on the area's wildlife.

For more information on their research or to follow their results contact Professor Reding, redida01@luther.edu.