University of Costa Rica’s Bernal Rodriguez Herrera, has won the prestigious Aldo Leopold award for his work in the field of conservation of bats and their habitats – the first time a Costa Rican has won this honor in any scientific pursuit. Rodriguez is the Founder and Co-ordinator of the Latin American Bat Conservation Network, and has done much of his vital research at the Biological Reserve Trimbina, in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica.
Rodriguez received the award on July 2nd, from the American Society of Experts in Mammals, at an awards ceremony held at the National Museum of Natural History, at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC. He was honored for his contributions to the scientific knowledge of mammals, especially bats, and for his excellence as a professor at University of Costa Rica, where he is a Professor of Biology. Rodriguez was surprised by the scientific recognition.
Rodriguez commented, “The Aldo Leopold Award for me is a recognition of the vision I’ve had and forged to train students to do quality research. I receive it as something I hope to fill you with hope to many young men and women students from Latin America.”
Rodriguez currently teaches the Biology of Mammals at University of Costa Rica, and is a specialist in diverse populations of animals, for instance, bats, mice and raccoons. He recently completed a research project on Brazilian bats, underwritten by the Brazilian government. He was accompanied by two Costa Rican doctoral students, and their work focused on Brazilian bat caves, priority sites for the conservation of these animals, in areas seldom studied.
Describing how he became fascinated by bats, Rodriguez explained, “I remember I did a lot of questions in the course of Zoology, and the first time I saw a bat with all the handsome wings, it seemed magical to see a “critter” that you do not normally see. It was a group of animals very abandoned by science.”
Rodriguez is hard at work filling this void in scientific research. He has published over 70 scientific articles, mostly about bats. He has turned both children and university students onto the magic of bats, through lectures, workshops, and university courses, many sponsored by his Bat Conservation Program. He has also toured Central American countries, often with his student assistants, promoting the conservation of bats. He has synthesized these travels and study into his book, “Murcielagos and Ceilings.” Murcielago is Spanish for bat.
Not much is known about bats, the only mammal that flies, and their image in society is predominately negative. They tend to be solitary animals, living in a social system of great complexity. Some 114 species of bats are native to Costa Rica. They help control the insect population, and are good seed distributors and crop pollinators.
There are three species of bats in Costa Rica known to drink blood. Rodriguez claims that bats present very little danger to humans and other animals. He says, “The common bat occasionally is known to bite humans when he is hungry, and can transmit diseases, such as rabies.
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