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Dr. Austin's BAT photo gallery
Newspaper article about Dr. Austin's BAT PRESENTATIONS
I understand that right about now, you're probably wondering how I got interested in bats. We'll, just sit back and relax, as I do my best to explain with both words and pictures....
One day in November 1990, while in my third trimester of chiropractic college in St. Louis, I felt myself getting temporarily overwhelmed with basic science courses. It was lunchtime, and I needed a break from the pathology, physiology, anatomy lab, etc. So I hopped in the car and drove to the local branch of the St. Louis public library. I found myself in the section where all the animal books were located.
Then it happened! I saw a book entitled America's Neighborhood Bats by Dr. Merlin Tuttle. The book caught my eye. I picked it up, read a few pages, looked at some amazing bat pictures, and what more can I say. It totally changed my life!
Dr. Tuttle, the book's author is known as the leading bat expert in the world, as well as the leading bat photographer in the world. He is also the founder of Bat Conservation International, which is a non-profit organization based in Austin, Texas. When I had finished reading the book, I decided to join BCI, and I've been a member ever since. For as little as $30/year it's a true bargain!
After graduating from chiropractic college in 1993, I moved to Quincy, IL. Nothing else exciting happened on the topic of bats until 1994. That's when I joined Toastmasters, a public speaking organization. From time to time I gave presentations at the local Toastmasters club about bats. My fellow club members always found my bat talks very interesting and educational.
Then in July 1995, Dr. Tuttle gave a 2-hour presentation in Chicago at the Field Museum of Natural History, in conjunction with the BATS:Masters of the Night exhibit. This was during the intense heatwave that Chicago experienced that summer. Fortunately, I made it there and back in one piece. As an added bonus, I got to meet the man himself, Dr. Tuttle. He also autographed my personal copy of America's Neighborhood Bats. Believe it or not, with all of the excitement of meeting Dr. Tuttle, I forgot to get my photo taken with him. Yes, some of the best photos are the ones we forget to take.
In August 1995, I stumbled across an article in a local paper about a caving group that was doing some bat conservation work at a local cave. They are known as the Mark Twain Grotto, and are based in the Quincy-Hannibal area. Shortly thereafter, I joined the grotto, and my first wild cave experience was on September 2, 1995 at Burton Cave (just east of Quincy).
The weekend of September 9-10, 1995, Eugena and I went to Meramec State Park with the grotto. We canoed to Green's Cave on Saturday. It's a clean cave with a cold stream of spring water that runs through it. In some spots the water goes up past your knees. Green's is still Gena's favorite cave.
On Sunday, we headed to Mushroom Cave. It's a muddy cave. Of all the wild caves I've been in so far, Mushroom's my favorite.
There was a cluster of bats in Burton Cave that I suspected were either endangered Indiana bats or endangered Gray bats. On September 16, 1995 a few of us (grotto members) went out to Burton cave to try to get some photos that were good enough to identify the species. Since it was a heavily vandalized cave, our goal was to put a gate on the cave to keep the bats safe, and to keep the riff-raff out. We wound up with some really good pics of the cluster. Eugena initially identified them as Indiana's. I agreed with her. We sent the pics to Dr. Tuttle and he verified that they were indeed endangered Indiana bats! Since then the Mark Train Grotto has successfully gated Burton Cave. As a result, the number of Indiana's in Burton Cave is now much greater than it was in 1995. Woo Hoo!
Later in September 1995, Dave Mahon (president of the MTG) and myself performed our first bat exclusion on a house in Liberty, IL. There were over 70 big brown bats living in the wall of the house, and the wife wasn't too happy with her unwanted house guests. The exclusion was a success. The bats got out happy and healthy, and the family had their house all to themselves again.
Then in October 1995 just after Halloween time, I was blessed with the opportunity to talk to the Kindergarten through 3rd graders at Irving Elementary School in Quincy, IL. That was my very first time speaking to elementary school students about bats. It was truly a blast! What more can I say, but ...That's when "THE BAT DOCTOR" was born!