(A) Bats without artificial light, by David Molloy (2018). 100cmx80cm.
(B) Bats with artificial light, by David Molloy. (2018). 100cmx80cm.
The effects of artificial lighting were studied on a roost of Common Pipistrelles situated under a disused bridge in Dromid, Co Kerry. Bats were monitored for consecutive days throughout September 2018 from 6-10 pm. Using a bat detector as an indicator of activity, audio files were produced displaying echolocation behaviour with and without the presence of artificial lighting. Audio files were then processed using computer software to produce spectrograms.
As a visual representation of the audio recordings, they operate similarly to a graph. This aids our understanding of the results and greater enables us to draw comparisons.
Spectrogram (A) shows bat activity without artificial lighting. Spectrogram (B) shows bat activity with the introduction of artificial lighting, with two 80watt LED lights placed on either side of the bridge.
From the spectrograms produced, we can conclude that artificial light has a significant effect on Pipistrelles. With spectrogram (A) clearly showing an increased activity in the bats with artificial lighting. It is possible this is the result of insects attracted to the light providing greater hunting opportunities, however further research is needed in this area.
Throughout Ireland, an increased number of Pipistrelles are seen in areas with artificial lighting. Increased activity in Pipistrelles is however not a positive effect. It indicates a disturbance to the ecosystem, from which extreme and unpredictable outcomes could take effect in the long term. It is important to note that this study does not apply to all bat species, many of which fail to leave roosts at all with the presence of an extended twilight period. The conclusion that artificial light has a significant effect on bat species however remains consistent.
The work has been created in alignment with scientific research purposes, these large-scale prints however are designed to be shown within a gallery setting. They aim to be more visually stimulating than a table of results, helping the viewer to engage further. When shown in alternative settings we may reach a new audience outside of science for whom the conclusions are just as relevant. The images are abstract without their titles, but interestingly make a visual representation of something hard to picture.
Using graphs produced from a scientific study, the images are our best efforts to illustrate facts. Any criticism of the study is welcomed, as attempts to disprove its’ conclusions may help to further develop knowledge. The result of such practice is to illuminate what is often regarded as a non-issue, creating cognition of an underexplored subject.
It is made in a climate of ecological disaster, but also in a world with more opportunity to share than ever. We need to think of new approaches to dealing with these issues, and how we distribute information about them. Whether that is in photojournalism, science, or any other study. We are the first generation to have new tools in our hands, but possibly the last to be able to tackle global scale issues such as conservation.