Bat sounds

Bats are social mammals that use a repertoire of vocalizations to communicate with each other and to move around in the environment.

To detect obstacles and prey in their environment, bats emit a series of ultrasounds, very high-pitched sounds above 20,000 Hz, beyond our range of hearing. As a bat flies and calls, it listens to the returning echoes of its calls to build up a sonic image of its surroundings. Bats can tell how far away something is by how long it takes the sounds to return to them, how big the target is based on the strength of the returning signal, and what shape the target has based on the spectral pattern of the returning sound waves. We call this process echolocation.

Individual bat species echolocate within specific frequency ranges that suit their environment and prey types. This means that we can train ourselves to identify many bats by listening to their calls with bat detectors.

Let’s LISTEN to recordings of the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) for comparison. – But how can we listen, if we cannot hear their calls? Let’s use a trick: When we slow down the recordings by a factor of 10, the calls are transposed to 10 times lower pitch and become audible to us.

Note: To make the sounds visible in sonograms we plotted frequency in thousands of cycles per second (kilohertz, kHz) on the vertical axis versus time in seconds on the horizontal axis. The varying intensity of colors ranging from dark blue (low intensity or quiet) to red (high intensity or loud) indicates the amplitude or loudness of each call. Amplitude is also shown in the top part of each figure with larger waves representing louder calls.

Little brown bat: Calls last from less than one millisecond (ms) to about 5 ms and sweep from 80 to 40 kHz, with most of their energy at 45 kHz.

sonogram of little brown bat Myotis lucifugus calls

Call series of a little brown bat Myotis lucifugus


Big brown bat: Calls last several milliseconds and sweep from about 65 to 20 kHz, and are thus lower pitched than calls of little brown bats.

bigsonogram of brown bat Eptesicus fuscus echolocating calls

Call series of a big brown bat Eptesicus fuscus



The above call series were recorded when the bat is generally surveying its environment, but what happens when it actually detects prey? Listen to this feeding buzz of a little brown bat:

sonogram of feeding calls of little brown bat

Feeding calls of a little brown bat Myotis lucifugus


When closing in on prey, a bat may emit 200 calls per second.

What might sound to us like the bat is getting excited – don’t you talk faster when you are excited about telling something? – this rapid series of calls actually helps the bat to pin-point the exact location of its prey, then it swoops in, and GULP – dinner is served, or not!


We hope you enjoyed listening to these bat sounds; if you have any questions please contact Angelika, curator of the animal sound archive at The Ohio State University.

The Ohio State University - logo


All recordings are archived with the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics (BLB.OSU.EDU) at The Ohio State University.

An 1892 Framed Plant Mount on display at the Thompson Library

The first director of The Ohio State University Herbarium and his wife, Dr. and Mrs. William Ashbrook Kellerman, prepared quite a large number of framed mounts of Ohio plants in 1892. According to the previous curator of the herbarium, Dr. Ronald L. Stuckey, these were “part of an exhibit of the Ohio flora displayed in the Ohio State Building … at the Columbian World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. The total collection consisted of a display of mounted specimens of leaves, twigs, flowers, fruits, section of wood and bark of Ohio’s forest trees, and flowering plants, mosses, lichens, and algae.”

One of these framed mounts, twigs and wood section of the white oak tree, Quercus alba L., is currently on display at the Thompson Library until May 14, 2017. Dr. Florian Diekmann, head of the Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Library and Student Success Center, was in contact with the staff of the OSU herbarium early June last year seeking help in displaying specimens of white oak as many of the wooden structures of the main library were obtained from that plant.

Since the original twigs and leaves were not in good condition and the glass was chipped in a corner, Dr. Diekmann agreed to have it restored and refurbished. This is just one of the many framed, mounted but not displayed items in the Herbarium hitherto. The idea behind the gallery is to show the “unique connections and history shared between The Ohio State University and Ohio’s forests.” The Ohio State University Herbarium was glad to share its resources with the general public and has also made other items available for display at the gallery.

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Mesfin Tadesse, curator OSU herbariumAbout the Author: Mesfin Tadesse is curator of vascular plants at The Ohio State University Herbarium.

*** We would like to hear from you, please leave a comment ***

Flight of the Butterfly

What does re-animated life in the Triplehorn insect collection look like? What if a butterfly took flight from its drawer? Watch for yourself: Flight of the Butterfly by Tamara Sabbagh

THANK YOU Luciana Musetti, curator of the OSU Triplehorn Insect collection for facilitating the students’ visit.

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is the outreach and multi-media coordinator at the Museum of Biological Diversity and facilitates visits of school classes and students.

*** Which of the animations is your favorite? ***

Samsara – Cyclicality of life

Another video of re-animated life produced by a student in the Moving Image Art class organized by Amy Youngs, Associate Professor of Art:

Samsara – Cyclicality of life by Yuntian Zang: Inspired by the antlers on the wall, a deer goes wandering …

THANK YOU Stephanie Malinich, collection manager of Tetrapods, for facilitating the students’ visit.

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is the outreach and multi-media coordinator at the Museum of Biological Diversity and facilitates visits of school classes and students.

*** Which of these animals is your favorite? ***

re-animated Life I

We scientists look at our natural history collections as a great resource for our studies. Specimens tell us about life in the past (where species lived, what they looked like, how many individuals existed etc.) and let us hypothesize about the future. This is one way of looking at these dead “things” that we so meticulously curate. Artists may have a quite different view. This was greatly illustrated by a Moving Image Art class organized by Amy Youngs, Associate Professor of Art, last semester. Students visited our collections of dead things and were asked to find ways to re-animate these animals. We were amazed by the imagination of these young artists-to-be. Over the next days we will share some of the best pieces with you. Here is the first animation, Re-Animated Life by Alina Maddex: Birds and one turtle moving in their natural environment

THANK YOU Stephanie Malinich, collection manager of Tetrapods, Marc Kibbey, Associate Curator of the Fish Division, Caitlin Byrne, Collections Manager of the Division of Molluscs, and Luciana Musetti, curator of the OSU Triplehorn Insect collection for facilitating the students’ visit.

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is the outreach and multi-media coordinator at the Museum of Biological Diversity and facilitates visits of school classes and students.

*** Which of these animals is your favorite? ***

Museum Open House 2017

We hope you all enjoyed our Open House last Saturday. We started the morning in the dark due to a power outage in the Upper Arlington area. Just as we moved specimens and displays outside, the power came back on at 10:30 am and we were able to invite visitors inside.

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The auditorium was creeping and crawling with all kinds of arthropods including everyone’s favorite stick insects and scorpions.

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Lots of activities awaited all kids and young-at-heart; among others you could plant a seedling, build your own bird feeder, preserve bugs in goo and get your face painted – some artists were at work here.

Herbarium, insects, tetrapods, fishes and mollusc collections had their doors open to give you insights into research in natural history collection and simply show you some of the cool specimens we have.

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You could listen to sounds of frogs, cicada, racoons and other animals in the Borror lab of Bioacoustics.

Drawing natural history specimens was a hit, and produced some very nice drawings.

We would like to thank our numerous volunteers without whom this event would not have taken place. They help with set-up, explain displays to visitors and take displays down at the end of the day. THANK YOU.

Let us know what your favorite activity or display was. We hope to see you all again next year!

About the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and coordinates social media and outreach at the museum.

*** We would like to hear from you – Please leave a comment ****

Our big day is tomorrow

Tomorrow, Saturday April 22, from 10 AM – 4 PM we will open our doors and welcome all of you to visit our hidden treasures in the natural history collections of The Ohio State University. Stop by and talk to the curators who meticulously keep these specimens and make them available to students and researchers for study throughout the year. This is your chance each year to see what we do and to support our efforts.

The event is FREE and so is parking. We will have many activities for children including face painting, the very popular bugs-in-goo, a live arthropod zoo … and this year new, for anyone over 15 years, guided sessions on scientific illustration, drawing natural history specimens.

Enjoy some photos from last year events

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The set-up for tomorrow is in full swing, here is what I have seen so far

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About the Author: Angelika Nelson is curator of the Borror Laboratory of Bioacoustics and coordinates social media and outreach at the museum.

*** We hope to see you tomorrow ***

Virtual tour


I greatly enjoy the National Museum of Natural History virtual tour. It allows people from all over the world to view some of the exhibits that the museum has to offer.  Of course it’s not as gratifying as visiting the museum in person, but it is pretty cool.

The MBD does not have exhibits and is not regularly open to the public. Nonetheless there’s a fair amount of interest from the local community about the work we do here and the collections we hold. We frequently receive requests for tours of the facility, from local schools to OSU classes to family groups. Tours allow visitors to view some of the many specimens and objects held by the various collections and to talk to some of the faculty and curators associated with the collections. I had the pleasure of leading a number of these tours in recent months. I tried to document each tour, taking photos and posting on social media.

Here are some of the photos I took during the most recent tours. Not as fancy as a virtual tour, but hopefully cool enough to get more people excited about a future visit to the Museum of Biological Diversity.

Note that there are almost no photos of the tour groups when they are at the Triplehorn Insect Collection. I can never manage to answer questions about the collection I curate and to take photos at the same time. Oh, well!




About the Author: Luciana Musetti is an Entomologist and Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection.

STRIKE: Creating Awareness for Bird Window Strike Fatalities

The word "strike" is spelled out of bird study skins

“STRIKE”-An art installation created to represent building fatalities in birds. ©Amy Youngs, 2015

December 2015, OSU Associate Professor and local artist Amy Youngs borrowed specimens from the Tetrapod Collection for her art installation for a BioPresence exhibition at OSU. The word “STRIKE” was spelled out with 116 bird specimens from our collection to commemorate the bird deaths resulting from collisions with human-made structures that occur every year.

Amy describes her motivation for the project:

“The project comes from my desire to see the world from the perspectives of other animals. As a human animal, I can never fully understand the experience of a bird, but as an artist I try to translate that effort in ways that speak to other humans and perhaps have some positive effect for birds. I began thinking about the window strike issue when I saw Angelika Nelson collecting a dead bird that had hit a window at the Heffner Building at the Olentangy Wetlands Research Park. I began asking questions about what birds see and don’t see and what is known about preventing the problem of building collisions. I thought about how many of the dead birds in the collection of the Museum of Biological Diversity could attest to the tragedy of human-built structures. What if the birds went on strike? What if we saw our buildings like birds did? Perhaps we would learn to build in ways that would allow us to become better citizens of the ecosystem.”

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Collaborations between Art and Science like this one are an innovative way to raise awareness of environmental issues. In this case we focused attention on bird strikes. Artists and scientists can work towards creating unique ways to both increase building visibility for migrating birds and public awareness of the problem. Check out this project at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA for some inspiration. For now, we will keep using the bird collision study skins as outreach tools in education events on this pressing matter.


About the Author: Stephanie Malinich is Collection Manager of the OSU Tetrapod Collection.

Open House 2016

Last Saturday (April 23) started out cool and cloudy, but the enthusiasm of visitors and volunteers at the 12th Annual Museum Open House made it turn into an exhilarating day.  By our best reckoning, we had 2,641 guests join us to celebrate the day. Our 186 volunteers were there to welcome them and share their passion for biodiversity.

This was a year of innovation: a springtime date, outdoor activities under a massive 20′ x 90′ tent, a 2,200 gallon aquarium stocked with a variety of fish from the Scioto River, the t-shirt design contest, and a number of new hands-on activities. The support and positive feedback from the community was absolutely tremendous and thoroughly invigorating. Thanks to all who came, to all who helped to put the event together, to all our amazing volunteers, to the generous donations from visitors, and to the College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology, and to the Department of Entomology for financial support.

We’re wrapping up this year’s event (look for a more complete report at later blog post) and already thinking and planning for our lucky 13th Open House: all ideas on how to make this a better event are welcome. See you next year!


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This year we expanded to the outside of the Museum, with kids’ activities under the tent.

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Another new feature was the portable aquarium, stocked with fish from the Scioto River; they were returned to the river at the end of the day.

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One of our young visitors gets a closer look at the fish.










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A chameleon being painted on the cheek of one of our guests.

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OSU undergraduate student Christina Daragan volunteered in face painting and acquired a painting of her own.

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EEOB department chair Dr. Libby Marschall cuts chameleons out of paper plates for a kid’s activity.










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A young visitor engaged in fish-printing.

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Graduate students from the Aquatic Ecology Laboratory help with the plankton races.

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One of many young visitors who were photographed looking through a very different organism!









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George Keeney, “zookeeper” of the Insect Zoo, which is always a big attraction.

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Dr. Rachelle Adams shows roaches to visitors.

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Abby Pomento shows a Hognose Snake to a young visitor.









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Roger Thoma explains crayfish biology to visitors.

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Former graduate student Dr. Paul Larson explains DNA analysis.

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Members of the limnology lab talk about aquatic systems with visitors.









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Stephanie Malinich, Manager of the Tetrapod Collection, with her avian headdress.

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Graduate student Liz Calhoon explains the colors of birds.

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Activities and exhibits in the Insect Collection.









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The adult phase (you can tell by the wings) of a volunteer in the Insect Collection.

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Jodi Folzenlogen explains the collection of sounds in the Bioaccoustics exhibit.

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Dr. Tom Watters, Curator of the Mollusc Collection, explains the world of mussels and clams.









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Dr. Hans Klompen, Director of the Tick & Mite Collection, shows the world of these tiny organisms to our guests.

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OSU undergraduate student Miriam Gibbs explains fish biology.

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Drs. Bill Ausich, William Schenck and Dale Gnidovec talk about fossils with our visitors.









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Exhibits in the Herbarium.

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Dr. Bob Klips explains lichen biology to a guest.

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Dr. Meg Daly, Director of the Fish Collection, and Dr. Norm Johnson, Director of the Insect Collection (and lead event organizer), enjoy a moment in the beautiful weather.











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Dr. Luciana Musetti, Curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection, with Zach Hurley, former Curatorial Assistant at the insect collection.

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Dr. Carol Anelli, Associate Chair of Entomology, and Dr. Johnson help orient visitors.

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Kevin Lumney, Instructor in EEOB, takes a well-deserved break near the end of the event.











About the Authors: Dr. Norman Johnson is Director of the Triplehorn Insect Collection and led the organization of the Museum Open House 2016. Dr. John Freudenstein is Director of the OSU Herbarium. Norman wrote the text above and John produced the photo gallery. All photos and captions by John Freudenstein.