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Meet a Roadrunner: Sarah Gorton wants to change people’s minds about bats

by Jesus Chavez, University Communications    |    September 28, 2016

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Meet Sarah Gorton. This Roadrunner spent her summer braving the Georgia wilderness to chase bats.

“I’ve been interested in bats for a long time,” said Gorton, 19. “I mean, what’s not to like? They’re the only mammal capable of flight; that puts them ahead of most of us. I also just think they’re really interesting and cute.”

Gorton, a UTSA communications major, worked on two bat-related projects over the 90 days she spent in Georgia. The first was surveying the bat populations across several locations in northern Georgia with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The second was with the University of Georgia at Athens, where Gorton and her team visited several state parks to track the endangered northern long-eared bat to figure out its preferred roosting habitats. Gorton and her fellow researchers would gently catch bats in nets, examine and log the species. They would then track the bats to their daytime roosting area. It was a task that often had them working from sundown to sunup.

“Bats are in more danger than we’d like to believe, and it’s kind of our responsibility to help them,” said Gorton, who is currently the secretary for Southern Wildlife and Rehab. “After all, humans can be so cruel to bats for no good reason. Not all bats drink blood or carry rabies. In fact, the number of both those types of bats is miniscule.”

Gorton’s interest in bats can be traced back to her eighth grade year, when she enrolled in a summer conservation program at the San Antonio Zoo. That summer began her love affair with the local zoo and bats. She returned year after year to assist the zoo’s efforts in a variety of ways. At age 16, she was made a docent, a position usually reserved for workers 18 or older, and one she continues today. 

Through all this work, Gorton also discovered another passion: public speaking.

“I’m still figuring out where my future will lead me, but I think that if I can use my UTSA education to somehow educate more people about bats, I would be really happy,” said Gorton.

Gorton, a sophomore, came to UTSA to refine her communications skills so she can spread positive messages about bat conservation while receiving a top-tier education.

“When you spend your days talking to people about bats, you feel a bit of a responsibility to make sure that they walk away without any misconceptions,” said Gorton. “So I’m finding new ways to get people excited about bats. My classes at UTSA have been great for figuring out new approaches to my work.”

In addition to her interest in bats, Gorton is an active member of UTSA organizations. She works with the UTSA Academy for Teacher Excellence, which uses research and training to better prepare teacher candidates in the UTSA College of Education and Human Development, and she recently won third place in the UTSA StorySLAM! Competition.

Gorton will soon embark upon another bat-related research project closer to home in Texas. After all, this part of Texas is well-known for its flying mammals.

“Texas is the bat capitol of the world,” said Gorton. “So as Texans, I believe we should all embrace bats as our own. There’s a lot to love, if you just open your mind a bit.”

View the original story on UTSA Today: 

Photo courtesy of University Communications

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