GROTON —The local bat population could soon have a few summer homes in town thanks to the service of Diana Mendel.
The 17-year-old Groton Girl Scout is installing three bat boxes on town land over the summer. Mendel first proposed her idea to the Conservation Commission earlier this month.
Bat boxes act as a mobile home for the winged creatures with tight spaces and warm temperatures, similar to the dark caves they usually find in the winter months. Mendel told the commission that the boxes would be part of her Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can earn involving Scouts serving a great need for the community through an activity or service.
Mendel said that she’s been a Girl Scout since kindergarten and originally wanted to build bat boxes near the soccer fields at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School, where she’ll be doing her senior year of high school this coming year. She said that after doing more research on bats in general, she discovered that certain bat species are endangered. Many bat deaths have been linked to white-nose syndrome, where bats living in caves discover a white fungus in their habitat and end up with it on their nose before it infects and kills them.
She also factored in the benefit of having bats around to reduce the nuisance of mosquitoes in the area, something she has plenty of experience with.
“I’ve always done soccer all my life, I’ve been on a lot of soccer fields and I see mosquitoes all the time,” Mendel said at the meeting. “I wanted to find a natural, chemical-free way to help reduce the mosquito population. That’s when I discovered bat boxes and bat conservation. Doing more research, I realized why bats are important for other reasons, not just controlling the mosquito population.”
Mendel has already placed one box near the Groton Rail Trail and plans to put two more boxes in two other locations: one on a repurposed utility pole at Babbacook Pond and another at the headquarters of the Nashua River Watershed Association on Main Street.
Mendel originally suggested multiple locations for the bat boxes to be built during commission meeting. Those locations include in the 36-acre Shattuck Homestead off Martins Pond Road, another near Knops Pond and another near Surrenden Farm. The reasoning for the locations is that they’re toward water sources, where the mosquito population would be higher. She added that she’d like to keep the boxes up throughout the year but could take them down if requested by the commission when seasons change.
Mendel said the boxes would be kept away from nearby housing in order to keep them from bothering residents.
“I mean, they’re harmless but people might not want that,” she added.
Mendel also mentioned other elements of her Gold Award project, including collaborating with the Nashua River Watershed Association to create an educational pamphlet on bats for the association to offer to locals. She recently participated in the association’s Animal Adventures week from July 22 to 25 by leading an education session for kids ages nine to 11 on bats and conserving the species, even showing them how to build their own bat boxes as a “fun, hands-on” experience. Mendel also plans to make a YouTube video with her father showing how to build a bat box.
“Community service has always been a big part of my life,” Mendel said. “It’s very fulfilling to me. With the Gold Award, it seemed like something I wanted to tackle. I like the challenge and I like to accomplish things.”
Further solidifying her accomplishment, each box will be stamped with “Bat Conservation Girl Scout Gold Award Diana Mendel.”
Jon Winkler: @MrJW595 on Twitter