Detection probability of bats using active versus passive monitoring.


As technology has evolved, bat researchers have relied more heavily on using acoustic techniques to collect data on bat communities. Acoustic data can be collected actively, where the researcher is present at the sampling point and follows the bat with the detector, or passively, where the researcher is not present and the detector is set out by itself. Active sampling can yield longer, clearer calls, and is only conducted during part of the night (usually from sunset to about 02:00 hours) for short bouts (20 minutes). By contrast, passive sampling can yield lower quality calls, but procedures are easily repeatable and data can be used to measure temporal vari- ation in activity throughout the night and detect individuals and species that are missed during active
sampling. Researchers are in- creasingly attempting to monitor and compare bat communities over time, including sites where both active and passive sampling have occurred. However, these two techniques can yield different detection probabilities and the extent to which data collected using these two techniques can be compared is unclear. Thus, in July 2017 we simultaneously collected acoustic data actively and pas- sively to compare detection probabilities of bats at the Savannah River Site, South Carolina, USA. Using Anabat Express detectors, we detected five species or species groups (Eptesicus  fuscus/Lasiurus  cinereus,  L. borealis/L. seminolus, Perimyotis subflavus, Myotis austroriparius, and Nycticeius humeralis) using each method. Using single  season occupancy modeling, we found that method (passive vs. active sampling) had a significant effect on detection probabilities of all species, and that passively sampling throughout the night yielded the highest detection probability for all species. As a result, if differences in detection probability are not taken into account, comparison of historical active datasets with current passive datasets could lead to different insights into habitat use by similar bat communities. Based on our findings, we recommend that researchers use passive sampling throughout the night when studying and monitoring bat communities.


  • Citation: Teets, K.D.; Loeb, S.C.; Jachowski, D.S. 2019. Detection probability of bats using active versus passive monitoring. Acta Chiropterologica 21: 205-213.
  • Keywords: acoustics, active sampling, clutter, passive sampling, occupancy probability
  • Posted Date: September 26, 2019
  • Modified Date: January 14, 2020
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