From Xplor for Kids
June 2011 Issue

Wild Jobs: Bat Counter Shelly Colatskie

Publish Date

Jun 01, 2011

Shelly Colatskie sheds light on creatures that live in darkness.

Outside, sunshine illuminates the Ozark hillside, but deep inside the cave, the darkness is complete. So is the silence. It makes the scuffle of Shelly Colatskie’s boots echo as she creeps along the muddy passage. The beam of her headlamp pierces the gloom, scanning for objects like the light from an airport tower.

Hibernating gray bats blanket the ceiling. Some are piled four deep on top of each other. In places, 250 bats snuggle in a space the size of this magazine. As a cave biologist, it’s Shelly’s job to count them all. Her tallies help scientists learn whether bat numbers are increasing or decreasing.

Shelly studies other cave creatures, too, including snails the size of sand grains and flatworms the color of pink cotton candy. These, like many of Missouri’s cave critters, are found nowhere else on Earth.

Not all of Shelly’s work happens underground. Sometimes she uses nets to snare bats fluttering through forests. Other times, she sits near caves and uses heat-sensing cameras to record bats flying out.

Shelly loves her job, but there are some downsides. Caves are cold, wet and muddy. Shelly must keep in good shape to lug gear and wiggle through narrow crevices. And, don’t even ask her about the rabies shots she had to get to handle bats. “But,” says Shelly, “if I can shed light on these mysterious animals, it’s worth it.”

Also in this issue

Photos With Nop and Dave: When Breakfast Bites Back

To painters and photographers, a portrait is an image that depicts the face and upper body of a person or animal. Its purpose is to show what the critter in question looks like. Of course, this photo of a yellow-crowned night-heron satisfies the definition. But if you call it a portrait, photographer Noppadol Paothong might want a word with you.

You Discover

School’s out, and the best way to beat summer boredom is to get outside. With creeks to seek, baby animals to watch and fireflies to catch, there’s plenty to do in June and July. Here are eight more things you can discover.

My Outdoor Adventure

Amber’s headlamp shone on a big bullfrog floating in the dark marsh water. With a quick jab, she caught the frog with her gaff.

Take a Hike!

Hiking promises adventure—or at least something new to see—around every bend. Before you strike off for a walk in the woods, check your trail-trekking know-how by following Mari and Amy on a virtual hike. Ready? Let's go.

Nature's Exclamation Points

Some butterflies, with their dazzling colors and intricate patterns, seem to exclaim, “Summer is here!” Others lie hidden, perfectly camouflaged on leaves and bark, and reward only careful observers. But butterflies don’t just win cool points for color. They are downright incredible.

Xplor More: Catch a Crayfish

Have you caught a crayfish or has the crayfish caught you?

This Issue's Staff:

David Besenger
Bonnie Chasteen
Chris Cloyd
Peg Craft
Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Chris Haefke
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Kevin Lanahan
Kevin Muenks
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
Tim Smith
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White
Kipp Woods

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