Bats have always been one of the most misunderstood creatures. Many people grow up learning to fear bats, which is unfortunate because bats are relatively harmless and are an important part of our ecosystem. Without bats, there are a lot more bugs to ward off during the warmer months. I'll take bats over pesky bugs any day. Then again, I've always had an appreciation for the critters. That's why I am so intrigued with Joyce Hwang's "Bat Cloud". Bat Cloud is an installation that can be found at Tifft Nature Preserve. I first wrote about the eco-sculpture a year ago (see here
), and since that time Hwang, who is an assistant professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo, has taken the concept from dream to reality (with the help of a number of UB architecture and design students).
According to the University at Buffalo the Bat Cloud is intended to "provide a habitat for bats, educate the public about them and draw attention to an illness that is decimating the bat population." The pods that make up the Bat Cloud are fascinating and fantastic. The upper portion of the pod is a roosting area for the bat - sort of like a loft. Then there is a lower section that contains soil and native plants. The bat guano drops down into the soil, thus becoming a fertilization mechanism, which in turn allows the plants to grow and remain healthy. The plants then attract the bugs that the bats require for life sustenance.
By creating the Bat Cloud, Hwang plans to draw attention the bats and their current plight. Since "White Nose Syndrome" was first identified in 2006, 7,000,000 bats have died from the disease*. The cloud that is now hanging from the Tifft tree canopy is a gesture that will hopefully raise awareness of the importance of bats and their habitat. Just like the bees in Silo City
, the bats at Tifft are slowly making it onto our collective radar. Let's just hope that these types of initiatives are just the first of many, and that we are not too late in our fledgling efforts to protect the critters that we unknowingly depend on.