Meet the Bat Team! #WingedWednesdays

Welcome back to #WingedWednesdays!

This week, we’re going to introduce you to the team behind the Toronto Zoo’s Native Bat Conservation Program (NBCP). We’re a small team, but we work hard to protect Ontario’s bats to get the word out about how cool they are! This year we are going back out into the forests of Ontario to study bats after a pause on fieldwork last summer due to covid restrictions. Here are the current members of our team (with more seasonal staff to come):

Toby Thorne, MSc (he/him)

Program Co-ordinator

Toby has worked on the Native Bat Conservation Program at the Toronto Zoo since 2016. He caught his first bat at the age of eleven and hasn’t looked back. He spent his teenage years hanging around the woodlands and churchyards of southern England learning about bat biology and how to study them. He studied biological sciences at the University of Oxford, including an honours project examining social relationships among bats in a long-term banding study. He moved to Canada in 2013 to undertake a research master’s investigating bat migration around the Great Lakes, supervised by Dr. Brock Fenton. Since completing his Master’s  he has remained in Ontario, working on a variety of bat conservation programs, and authoring a field guide to the bats of the province. You can check out his field guide here: https://mattholderfund.com/product/birds-of-ontario/

Maddy Foote, MSc (she/her)

Lead Bat Researcher

Maddy re-joined the team in September 2020 as a data analyst, transitioning to lead researcher this spring. She first joined the zoo’s bat team in the summer of 2018 as a seasonal assistant helping with field work. She completed her MSc at the Royal Ontario Museum in 2019 on leech systematics, but her passion has always been studying bats. Maddy’s bat research has led to field work in Belize, Guyana, and around Ontario. Her favourite species of bat is Glossophaga soricina, a little neotropical bat with a very long tongue that feeds on flower nectar.

Melissa Donnelly, RVT (she/her)

Field Technician

Melissa has been working closely with tropical bat species since 2009, and with the zoo team since 2019. Bats have always been a passion for her ever since first setting eyes on them at her cottage in Grey County. Over the years, she’s gained batty experience and knowledge as a community scientist, networking on various Facebook bat groups, and volunteering at any available opportunity with the help of many wonderful mentors near and far. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto where she received a BSc degree in Zoology, and college diploma from St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Canada, where she trained to become a Veterinary Technician. She’s been lucky enough to travel to various places in the United States, Central and South America, and Zambia to help participate in bat surveys and conservation. By chance, Melissa became involved in Proyecto CUBABAT (www.proyectocubabat.com) in 2012 where, with the support of Animal Experience International, she helps organize expeditions to Cuba to help provide funding to local researchers and spends time in many caves surrounded by thousands of bats. From 2014-2018, Melissa was the lead bat biologist for Operation Wallacea on the islands of Dominica in the Lesser Antilles, and Buton, SE Sulawesi, Indonesia.

We hope you’ll keep following along with our posts this summer where we’ll update you about our findings in the field and ongoing projects with the NBCP. See you next week!