Bat Blitz 2010

Bat Blitz Jitters

July 27th, 2010

I woke up this morning and realized that for the first time in nearly two weeks I hadn’t had the recurring dream that had plagued me – the one about the bat that rode around clinging to my back, underneath my shirt, I know it may sound ridiculous, but for me I fully realized what my subconscious was telling me. The Bat Blitz was coming and my mind was in a frenzy, feeling slightly (okay, more than slightly) unprepared.

The last time I had the dream was of course the worst of all, because I pulled the bat off, and it was pale, malnourished and neglected. I rather dejectedly handed it over to Trina, our nongame bat biologist where she informed me the bat was so far gone, it would most certainly die. I awoke in a cold sweat. It was the day before the blitz.

I have never been one for superstition. I routinely walk under ladders, “jinx” myself, spill salt and tangle with black cats, much to my husband’s dismay.  I do however tend to listen to my gut instincts, so perhaps all that women’s intuition stuff is not such a myth after all. I am thinking I should have paid more attention to my gut this time and stayed home. But let me back up.

July 25, 2010

I got a late start heading out. My son wrapped his arms around my waist and begged me to take a day off, maybe I should have listened.

When I got the office I realized I did not have a key to get in, half my key ring was missing and I was standing there sweating in what felt like 95 degree heat with all my junk, locked out of the office on a Sunday, nearly an hour away from my keys.

I called my WONDERFUL co-worker who was able to bring me a key, and after loading up the van I headed out. I was running about an hour behind at this point.

About an hour and fifteen minutes into the 2 ½ hour drive the car began to cough and jerk. Uh-oh. The check engine light came on and all of the sudden I was wishing I had taken the auto-mechanics class my dad kept recommending way back in high school. Stubborn girl that I am, I just kept pushing, determined that I would not miss this event. I had put too much time (not really), and they needed me (nope). Work-a-holism at it’s very worst had taken over and it can make you a very scary creature.

By the time I pulled over, the check engine light was ON and no longer flashing politely. It was not a suggestion any longer but a clear order to PULL OVER.

My first thought was of course, how do I get to the park now?  Made all the requisite calls. Of course there is no reception in the mountains, and was feeling pretty low until low and behold another DNR vehicle pulls up across the highway at the Sunoco. I start jumping up and down and waving while simultaneously speed-dialing my good buddy Jim Ozier and I can see that he is reaching for his phone. My eyes have not deceived me.

He has a carful of bat biologists but manages to stuff me and nearly all my gear into the truck and off we go. Disaster averted, at least temporarily. (Or so I think) It is only once we get 20 minutes down the road that I realize that I have not only forgotten the bat pictures for my trivia wheel, but also my toiletry bag….looks like it will be a stinky couple of days and I suddenly feel sorry for anyone who will have to be anywhere in the near vicinity of my armpits for the next few days in this heat.

Education Night

Okay, so enough complaining. We get there, check in. The event goes great despite my lack of pictures (although I swear people were giving me a wider berth than usual…I bet I was smelly…) A Dalton reporter showed up and interviewed Trina and we had a ton of kids running around in bat masks! The presentations were terrific with Phaedra the fruit bat making a big hit with the crowd.

Phaedra

When the night finally draws to a close, I feel much better about my role in the whole blitz…and am relieved that at least for the moment, the bat is off my back.

July 26, 2010

Day 2 is actually the first day of the official blitz. All of the participants from all over the country have checked in by now and are just itching to get their hands on some bats. The favorite target of the crowd seems to be the Hoary bat, one I have never seen except in photos. I listen in while Trina goes over all the rules with the team leaders and participants. There are a bunch since here in Georgia (and everywhere) we are dealing with White Nose Syndrome protocols for the first time since the these blitz’s began. There are all new decontamination rules and regulations that the participants need to follow and everyone is extra alert.

I notice a couple familiar faces when Sharon and Shane from GPB walk in and start filming. I can’t wait to see this on Georgia Outdoors. This will make a great episode! (shameless plug I know!)

White, GA

After all the meetings I head out to run the dreaded errand of delivering the keys to Cartersville,GA where my defunct van is sitting at Wilson’s repair shop. I make the two-hour long drive (round trip) down highway 411 thinking it is the loooooongest road in the world. but at least I see some interesting landmarks along the way. Seriously, would you get your hair done at a place called “Curl up and Dye” ?? Or eat at any place with word roadkill in the name?

By the time I get back, it is nearly time for the groups to head out for setting up the mist nets.

setting up the nets

I join up with my team and we start gathering equipment. By the time we drive to our site, it is raining but we wait it out in anticipation of seeing a few bats.When we finally get the all clear via radio contact from bat central (HQ), we open our nets and from that point it doesn’t take long. Our first bat – a tri-colored bat, formerly called a Pipistrelle. Beautiful little thing, but squawky! I guess I would be too if I had just been caught in a net!

The team

weighing the bat

The team gets to work, taking measurements and recording data while I am snapping photos and taking video. The bat ends up being a complete ham, giving me several “perfect” shots. After the work is done, we thank the little guy and release him, squawking all the way, back into the night to catch his dinner.

Although still rushing a little bit from catching the bat, the team gets right back to work to catch the next one. They will be out here until nearly 2AM.

Exciting stuff.

This public affairs person has had enough excitement for one night however and will call it a night. Tomorrow will most certainly be another adventure.

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ACI 2010 – second installment

"many" me's

Social Media day was pretty exciting, although I think the group got more laughs on the account of my nine mayorships on Foursquare than on anything many of these apps will do for them or their agencies. Anyway, I digress, from that for now.

To walk all of us through the maze of the incredibly dynamic world of social media they brought in heavy-hitter and marketer Joel Warady. He spent the next four hours alternating between lecture and round-table discussions designed to maximize our experience. It really got all of us thinking “outside the box” to use an incredibly overused cliché.

Some of his best stuff included things like: “You don’t own your brand, the consumer does” and so basically “You RENT the brand, and they WILL become offended if you suddenly take it away or change it dramatically.”

Other really interesting information – 81% of online searchers read blogs, although many don’t realize it. (Did you know the Huffington Post was a blog?)53% of them read them daily and 70% of those that read daily, pass that info on to others via emailed link or share technology (think Delicious, Digg, Redditt, etc.) So that got many of us thinking, well should we have our own blogs? I know in Georgia it has been considered and even attempted with certain issues such as Urban Deer Management, but on a larger scale? Well Warady had advice for that question as well.

A blog is NOT something you can just give your PR department and expect it to succeed. It has to be an agency effort. (or division as the case may be) If you overburden yourself you run the risk of becoming just another homepage and then you are irrelevant. Blogs update at least once a week and ideally twice a week. You use guest bloggers and have anywhere from 3 to 5 people writing. This spreads out the work, keeps things transparent, dynamic and also keeps people coming back to see what’s new.Something else to chew on – if you are going to have a blog, put it on your homepage. That way people will continually visit, even if they have seen it a dozen times before. His advice, get rid of static pages that people visit one time. Dynamic pages take a little more effort to maintain, but in the end are worth it when you are driving people into your parks, WMA’s, or stores to purchase licenses.Just remember about the brand. You can’t start and stop. The consumer will become offended if you do great things….and then stop doing them.

Another idea – your homepage does NOT have to look like a state agency site. Utah took this advice and currently have one of the most popular fish and wildlife websites in their state. (scroll over their nifty media icons!! I love the flash capability) What they have done perfectly is given their customer a choice right off the bat that is easy to find, easy to navigate, and nice to look at.

We talked a bit about integrating online and offline marketing too. There are agencies out there that have done this fairly successfully now by using both table tents and mall signs with the wording ” Text W-I-L-D-L-I-F-E to 25678 and get a free park pass” or be entered to win some sort of drawing like a two-night stay somewhere. Pretty cool idea since everyone is carrying around mobile devices and texting.

When Joel wrapped up, he received a huge round of applause – handed out his business cards (which are very cool social media cards!) and reminded us that he is on twitter. (I gave him a nice ACI #FF and he was very gracious in his response.)

Our next speaker Gathan Borden talked to us about one of my favorite subjects, Twitter. He introduced us to Trazzler where you can write about places you have been in 160 words or less and how you can invite your customers to write in about parks, hunting and fishing experiences etc. in your respective states using this application. Very cool. He also showed us a very cool website called Yourls.org where you can create your own link shortner and then track who uses them! That opens up a whole new avenue of marketing data to use to target customers!!He also uses twitter for contests, give-a-ways and advertising campaigns/promotions fairly successfully with his primary job as the spokesman for the Urban Bourbon Trail in Louisville – which I highly recommend if you are ever in Kentucky!  You have to be personable on Twitter. Find 3-5 interesting things about your followers and mention those on occasion, do shout outs for special occasions and always include links that are interesting, relevant and even fun (80/20 rule).

Nels Rodefeld

A big part of the remaining sessions focused not just on how to cater to a changing audience outside of our various agencies, but how to adapt and work better with the diversity that might be just one office over. Everyone has different strengths and it has become vital to incorporate all of them to ensure that the team remains strong as a whole. Nels Rodefeld, president of ACI and Chief of the Information and Education Division of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation made an excellent point about this when he said that he makes a point to introduce himself to the new people and let them know he is available for questions, that they can refer pone calls to him. He knows that while he may not know the answer, that later on, as that new person learns their job they will more than likely be able to return the favor. That is relationship building at its best and also learning the strengths of your team.

Award Winners

After all the great talks, people were more than ready for the 1920’s themed awards dinner where we got to see some of the best and the brightest work by agencies and organizations from around the country. Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Arkansas and Florida all did exceptionally well. I can’t wait to get started on something for next year. I have so many ideas.

Over all ACI 2010 was an excellent learning experience and I am tremendously proud that I was able to be a part of it, and even prouder that I was elected to become a board member so that Georgia will have representation for the next couple of years in such a prestigious association.

Thanks to all the wonderful agencies and organizations (and especially host Kentucky!!) that make ACI possible!! Can’t wait to get to Cincinnati, Ohio for ACI 2011!!

The New Board

Special Thanks: Nevada Dept. of Wildlife, Nebraska Game and Parks, The Aldo Leopold Foundation, Texas Parks & Wildlife, Outdoor Alabama, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, MyOutdoorTV, Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, Arkansas Game and Fish, Ohio Division of Wildlife, Southwick Associates, HuntFishregs.com, J.F Griffin Publishing, Joel Warady, Gathan Borden, Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Virgina Dept. of Game and Inland Fisheries, Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, South Carolina DNR, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, US Fish and Wildlife, HuntFishBuddy, Dottie, Danny, Jeff, Bev, Nels, Stephanie, Michael, Steven, Penny, Lindsey, Robin, Amanda, Scott, and Micah for making this such a tremendous experience. (by the way – any and all photos will be posted to my flickr site! so come by and check it out if you don’t see yourself here.)

Bev and me!

Randy, Nels, Michael and Jeff

Amanda and me!

Robin

Lindsay - future hostess with the Mostess!

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ACI 2010 – Louisville, Kentucky

Well, first of all they couldn’t have picked a better venue! We are being housed at the historic Seelbach hotel, known for being a famous hangout spot during prohibition for the likes of Al Capone as well as garnering a mention in The Great Gatsby and being used for filming in the movie The Hustler with Paul Newman. So atmosphere alone makes the place cooler than cool.

When I got here, the wonderful staff of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife were quick to share their Unbridled Spirit by welcoming everyone to town with a night out on the town via 4th Street Live, beginning at Howl on the Moon for music and food and ending at Sports and Social for some late night bowling. Honestly I am surprised that so many of us made it to bed before the witching hour (or that we made it to the early morning session!)

Day 1 consisted mostly of Environmental Education (presented by John Tyson) and why we need to make sure to get our children outside, before they become corrupted by those magic boxes that tell them that it’s ok that 17% of kids are now obese. There are 37 Project Wild offices around the country and many of these are now expanding to include the Growing Up Wild program aimed at children 3-7 years of age. I think it’s a great program and can’t wait to share it with our education leaders in Georgia.

Second session was all about generational diversity, and I am not just talking about the old versus the young. Col. Milligan from Kentucky LE broke down the generational gaps for us: Matures, , Gen-X and Millenials- which I know is confusing for so many these days. What was really interesting is that no matter what generation you come from, the sad thing we all have in common that we can all relate to is war. Col. Robert Milligan gave us all some great pointers and left us with so many things to think about that by the end my head was spinning from all the notes I’d taken.

Next Dr. Roger Cleveland from Millennium Learning Concepts LLC taught us what diversity truly means. We learned that this highly over-used term can refer to anything from educational achievement to religious preference, to height, age, weight, sexual orientation, political affiliation to communication style. As communicators, it is our job not only to understand how to reach out to new and different audiences for recruitment, but also to make sure our workforce stays relevant and diverse as well.

The face of our country is changing – referred to as “the browning of America” and I think that as wildlife agencies and communicators we have to embrace that, but without alienating our current constituencies. There was a lot of discussion about this, in context especially considering all the anti-immigration sentiment going on right now. It really came down to money though. so far in 2010 the combined buying power of people of color (black, hispanic, other) totals $2 trillion!!! That outpaces white spending by 80%.

By the end of the afternoon we were all ready for a little fun, which again the Kentucky staff came through for us, loading us into vans and ferrying us to the beautiful Churchill Downs. Having never been to an actual Derby, I was awed by the massive size and the tangible history. You could feel this spirit all around you. Very cool. I of course was anxious to see find the engraved name of Citation, the 1948 Triple Crown winner, amongst all the others and clapped like a little girl when I did find it. After our tour, which included the grounds and millionaire row, we saw the museum and then sat down to a lovely dinner and live auction, Derby style. Too bad I didn’t wear my derby hat, but I still had a great time helping the ACI board out with minnow races, a fishing game and a dice game for raffle prizes. I swear those Arkansas boys fixed the minnow races however since my minnow refused to move every time I was challenged by anyone! By the end of the night, everyone was almost too sleepy to climb back on the busses to head back to the hotel, but again this morning we all arrived bright and early for this morning’s sessions on social media.

Well it is time for my contribution to the session so I will sign off for now. Be sure to follow our tweets at #ACILIVE or just @kristinasummer if you’re curious for updated before my next post from the world of conservation information!!

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Welcome to Tales from the field!

After building a cave gate for one of Georgia's last maternity colonies of gray bats

Working in public affairs for a wildlife agency can be a tough job in and of itself. However when you work on the front lines of conservation and have a particular fondness, no, we’ll call it what it is, an addiction for field work in the trenches (which after all is where the real stories get told) and are studying to get a masters degree in conservation ecology on top of everything else , you tend to have some pretty crazy awesome adventures. Seems like I am always getting in just a little bit over my head. I am creating this blog so that I can share with you some of my adventures. Make sure to check back often, as there is always something going on in the world of conservation ecology and PR.

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