Bat research begins in the South Bruce area using acoustic monitoring 

Tree with acoustic monitor attached

An acoustic monitor installed in the South Bruce area to identify bats. The recorder is mounted at an accessible height to allow easy battery and memory card changes and the microphone is mounted between four and five metres above the ground.

In July, the Toronto Zoo’s Native Bat Conservation Program (NBCP) installed acoustic monitors in and around South Bruce to enable researchers to study and support conservation efforts for bats in the area.

Half of Ontario’s bat species are officially endangered because of disease, habitat loss and other threats. The Toronto Zoo’s program, which focuses on bats in Ontario, is part of an international conservation effort to help bats to survive the dangers they are facing.

The work in the South Bruce area has been made possible through support from the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), which is partnering with the Toronto Zoo as they develop a research program to help address knowledge gaps in the ecology of bat species in Ontario.

“This research, made possible through our partnership based on shared values of species conservation and community participation, will help inform our biodiversity studies and contribute to protection of the environment,” said Melissa Mayhew, Senior Environmental Scientist at the NWMO.

Ontario’s bats fly in the dark using echolocation: calls and echoes to find their way. These sounds are above the range of human hearing, but acoustic monitoring equipment enables researchers to capture them.

“The monitoring equipment is designed to record these high-frequency bat calls,” said Toby Thorne, Bat Researcher at the Toronto Zoo. The microphone is installed four to five metres above the ground so it is located where bats fly and high enough to avoid a lot of insect noise at ground level.”

The Toronto Zoo installed seven monitors on properties owned by Maitland Valley Conservation Authority and the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority, and on land optioned or owned by the NWMO. The monitors are active between sunset and sunrise and will be in place until late fall.

After retrieving the data from the recorders, researchers will use specialised software to identify the bat species in the area and the nature of their activity. The time of the recording and the season often indicate specific activity. For example, early evening recordings suggest bats are roosting nearby, while recording in the fall season indicates migratory bats may be traveling south for the winter. 

Area residents can also report any bat activity in the area – particularly roosting or bats around caves – by emailing More information can be found at

The NWMO and the Toronto Zoo will start sharing the results of the study with communities in the South Bruce area starting in 2021.

South Bruce is one of two potential siting areas being considered to host a deep geological repository for used nuclear fuel.