Úna Nealon, an Assistant Ecologist with MKO for the past year, was recently awarded her PhD from University College Dublin. Her thesis, titled Systems to predict and assess bat presence at wind turbines in Ireland, was motivated by overseas reports of wind turbine bat fatalities and is the first research in Ireland to examine this issue.
Undertaken with the Centre for Irish Bat Research and funded by the Earth and Natural Sciences Doctoral Studies Programme, her research focused on four Irish bat species at greatest risk of collision. Recording bat activity at wind farm sites along the west coast of Ireland, she compared these results to paired reference sites and found no force of attraction drawing bats towards wind turbines. In addition, using activity data collected continuously over 2 years, she modelled the influence of temporal and meteorological conditions on bat activity. Furthermore, she modelled bat habitat and landscape associations and produced a series of suitability maps indicating suitable and unsuitable areas for bats in areas of high wind resource. Finally, Úna surveyed professional bat ecologists in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain to systematically gather anecdotal data on bat survey methods and findings at wind farms and reported the first records of wind turbine bat fatalities in Ireland.
Úna’s work is currently being prepared for publication in peer-reviewed journals and will be used to inform bat survey and impact assessment guidelines.