Elissa Olimpi – Graduate Fellow 2014-15

2014OlimpiI used to think of farms primarily as a place to grow food, but now I see farms as places where hundreds of species of insects, birds, and mammals live. When I finished college, I moved to southern Mexico to work with bats on coffee plantations. I realized that agricultural landscapes provide food for us and habitat for wildlife, even the bats flying around at night that we may never see.

I focus on bats on farms in our backyard, the Central Coast region, where a single bat can eat the equivalent of her own body weight in insects in a single night! Bats are important to farms because they eat many of the pests that damage crops, so I want to understand what makes some farms more bat-friendly than others. Are bats just flying over farms on their way to somewhere else, or are they choosing to go to farms to eat insects? I also ask how forests influence bats on nearby farms.

I get to be part of the secret world of bats by using special equipment that allows me to hear bat calls that humans can’t normally hear. I especially enjoy catching live bats and using them to teach others about flight and echolocation. I love both outdoor education and teaching in the classroom, and am excited to join you at Watsonville High School this year!Olimpi_Poster_thumb

Contact Elissa: eolimpi@ucsc.edu