Ernie Valdez, Ph.D.
Ernie Valdez is a Research Wildlife Biologist at the Fort Collins Science Center, and works at the New Mexico Landscapes Field Station in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He received his doctorate degree in Biology, during 2006, at the University of New Mexico. His research interests span a variety of topics but are focused on conservation and ecology of insects and small mammals, with an emphasis on bats in temperate and tropical ecosystems. Ernie specializes in the feeding ecology and movement of insectivorous bats but also includes research on the ectoparasites of bats. His current projects include research related to white-nose syndrome, wind energy, and habitat use by bats at uranium mines in the Southwest.
- Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, University of New Mexico (Advisor: Dr. J. Scott Altenbach),
- 2006 Dissertation Title: Geographic variation in morphology, diet, and ectoparasites of the bat Myotis occultus in New Mexico and southern Colorado.
- M.S. in Biological Sciences, Fort Hays State University (Advisor: Dr. Jerry Choate),
- 1997 Thesis Title: Taxonomic status of Myotis occultus.
- B.S. in Biological Sciences (Minor in Anatomy), Colorado State University, 1993
- U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, New Mexico Landscapes Field Station, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 1997-present*
- National Biological Survey (NBS), Albuquerque, New Mexico. 1994-1996**
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Mid-continent Ecological Science Center, Fort Collins, Colorado. 1991-1993
* BRD Formerly known as NBS (1994-1996)
** NBS-Formerly known as USFWS (1991-1993)
- Adjunct faculty member in Dept. of Biology at University of New Mexico 2007-present
- Museum Research Associate in Division of Mammals at the Museum of Southwestern Biology 2007-present
- Museum Research Associate in Division of Arthropods at the Museum of Southwestern Biology 2009-present
- American Society of Mammalogists 1994-Life Member
- Southwestern Association of Naturalists 1995-Life Member
- Research Associate of Indiana State University Center for North American Bat Research Center and Conservation 2005 to present
- Western Bat Working Group 2003 to present (President 2015 to present)
- New Mexico Bat Working Group 1997 to present (co-chair 2008-2009)
- Arizona Bat Working Group 2003 to present
- Colorado Bat Working Group 2002 to present
- USGS Colorado Plateau Science Strategy Team 2015
Science and Products
The New Mexico Landscapes Field Station is a place-based, globally-connected, ecological research group that studies and interprets ecosystem and wildlife dynamics, working with land managers and community leaders to deliver solutions that foster the linked health of human and natural systems.
Our partnerships, and co-location, with land management agencies provide us with opportunities to deliver our research through high-quality science-based conversations. We often work together to develop strategies to adaptively sustain or restore vital ecosystem functioning.
For over three decades, we have used holistic multidisciplinary approaches to develop ecological understanding of the surrounding landscapes and biota. We focus on pressing research needs, from forest watershed health to diseases of sensitive bat species.
Recent and ongoing major changes in northern New Mexico ecosystems, in response to interactions among land use histories, drought stress, and disturbances like fire and insect outbreaks, may be a harbinger of future landscape responses elsewhere. We contribute to global scientific progress and science-based strategies to address management issues locally and beyond.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) and/or Pseudogymnoascus destructans (P.d.), the causal agent, has spread westward across 26 states and 5 provinces within the eastern United States and Canada, respectively, over a short period of time. Since its discovery there has been a search to stop the spread of this disease that has killed millions of hibernating bats in its wake. Recent collaborative work by FORT scientists, the University of New Mexico, and Western Illinois University have discovered that the external microbiota of several bat species from the Southwest have unique microbiota that show promise in impeding the growth of P.d.
Given the diverse bat species found in the southwestern U.S., compared to the eastern U.S., the possibilities of discovering new bio-controls against P.d. are great. Therefore, investigations by FORT scientists and collaborators have been targeted to species most likely to be affected and regions of greatest concern.
Bats are the only flying mammals that are active mostly at night and occur on all continents except Antarctica. Bats are ecologically diverse, with a range of species that specialize in feeding on fruit, nectar, blood, fish, small mammals, and insects. However, of the more than 1,100 known species of bats on Earth, the majority specialize in feeding on insects. In the United States for example, of the 45 different species of bats, 42 are insectivorous. These small creatures of the night are diverse in shape and size, with most relying on echolocation to detect insect prey and find their way through darkness. Many of these bats form colonies that feed on seasonally available insects from spring to autumn.
Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world and represents an important step toward reducing dependence on nonrenewable sources of power. However, widespread deployment of industrial wind turbines is having unprecedented adverse effects on certain species of bats that roost in trees and migrate. Bats are beneficial consumers of agricultural insect pests and migratory species of bats provide free pest-suppression services across ecosystems and international borders.
In 1999 and 2000, FORT conducted a survey of bats at El Malpais National Monument and adjacent lands. During this study, several species of bats were documented, including some that are known to use caves or lava-tube formations as roosts. In the winter of 2006–2007, the fungus-caused disease known as “white-nose syndrome” (WNS) began devastating populations of hibernating bat species that use caves and mines in the eastern United States. Since then, this disease has been spreading westward and has the potential to affect a greater diversity of bat species in the Southwest, as well as affect local populations of bats at El Malpais National Monument.
The use of uranium is an alternative energy source to petroleum products and some of the United States’ highest quality ore is located on the Colorado Plateau. However, some regions where suitable mining efforts are conducted include areas that are near important environmental resources such as National Parks that provide viewscapes and habitat for wildlife.
Radio telemetry data on nighttime movements of two species of migratory nectar-feeding bats (Leptonycteris) in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, late-summer 2004 and 2005
These bat location estimates have been reported by Bogan and others and come in the form of a GIS shape file.
Skin and fur bacterial diversity and community structure on American southwestern bats: effects of habitat, geography and bat traits
Microorganisms that reside on and in mammals, such as bats, have the potential to influence their host’s health and to provide defenses against invading pathogens. However, we have little understanding of the skin and fur bacterial microbiota on bats, or factors that influence the structure of these communities. The southwestern United States...Winter, Ara S.; Hathaway, Jennifer J. M.; Kimble, Jason C.; Buecher, Debbie C.; Valdez, Ernest W.; Porras-Alfaro, Andrea; Young, Jesse M.; Read, Kaitlyn J. H.; Northup, Diana E.
Landscape movements by two species of migratory nectar-feeding bats (Leptonycteris) in a northern area of seasonal sympatry
Animals often migrate to exploit seasonally ephemeral food. Three species of nectar-feeding phyllostomid bats migrate north from Mexico into deserts of the United States each spring and summer to feed on blooms of columnar cactus and century plants (Agave spp.). However, the habitat needs of these important desert pollinators are poorly...Bogan, Michael A.; Cryan, Paul; Weise, Christa D.; Valdez, Ernest W.
Western bats as a reservoir of novel Streptomyces species with antifungal activity
At least two-thirds of commercial antibiotics today are derived from Actinobacteria, more specifically from the genus Streptomyces. Antibiotic resistance and new emerging diseases pose great challenges in the field of microbiology. Cave systems, in which actinobacteria are ubiquitous and abundant, represent new opportunities for the discovery of...Hamm, Paris S.; Caimi, Nicole A.; Northup, Diana E.; Valdez, Ernest W.; Buecher, Debbie C.; Dunlap, Christopher A.; Labeda, David P.; Lueschow, Shiloh; Porras-Alfaro, Andrea
Evaluating the effectiveness of wildlife detection and observation technologies at a solar power tower facility
Solar power towers produce electrical energy from sunlight at an industrial scale. Little is known about the effects of this technology on flying animals and few methods exist for automatically detecting or observing wildlife at solar towers and other tall anthropogenic structures. Smoking objects are sometimes observed co-occurring with reflected...Diehl, Robert H.; Valdez, Ernest W.; Preston, Todd M.; Wellik, Mike J.; Cryan, Paul
Seasonal shifts in the diet of the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), Fort Collins, Colorado
Recent analyses suggest that the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) may be less of a beetle specialist (Coleoptera) in the western United States than previously thought, and that its diet might also vary with temperature. We tested the hypothesis that big brown bats might opportunistically prey on moths by analyzing insect fragments in guano pellets...Valdez, Ernest W.; O'Shea, Thomas J.
Exposure pathways and biological receptors: baseline data for the canyon uranium mine, Coconino County, Arizona
Recent restrictions on uranium mining within the Grand Canyon watershed have drawn attention to scientific data gaps in evaluating the possible effects of ore extraction to human populations as well as wildlife communities in the area. Tissue contaminant concentrations, one of the most basic data requirements to determine exposure, are not...Hinck, Jo E.; Linder, Greg L.; Darrah, Abigail J.; Drost, Charles A.; Duniway, Michael C.; Johnson, Matthew J.; Méndez-Harclerode, Francisca M.; Nowak, Erika M.; Valdez, Ernest W.; van Riper, Charles; Wolff, S.W.
Genetic characterization of the Pacific sheath-tailed bat (Emballonura semicaudata rotensis) using mitochondrial DNA sequence data
Emballonura semicaudata occurs in the southwestern Pacific and populations on many islands have declined or disappeared. One subspecies (E. semicaudata rotensis) occurs in the Northern Mariana Islands, where it has been extirpated from all but 1 island (Aguiguan). We assessed genetic similarity between the last population of E. s. rotensis and 2...Oyler-McCance, Sara J.; Valdez, Ernest W.; O'Shea, Thomas J.; Fike, Jennifer A.
Insect prey eaten by Hoary Bats (Lasiurus cinereus) prior to fatal collisions with wind turbines
Wind turbines are being deployed all across the world to meet the growing demand for energy, and in many areas, these turbines are causing the deaths of insectivorous migratory bats. One of the hypothesized causes of bat susceptibility is that bats are attracted to insects on or near the turbines. We examined insect remains in the stomachs and...Valdez, Ernest W.; Cryan, Paul M.
Surveillance for White-Nose Syndrome in the bat community at El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico, 2011
From late winter to summer 2011, the U.S. Geological Survey Arid Lands Field Station conducted mist-netting efforts at El Malpais National Monument and on adjacent lands belonging to Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service to detect the occurrence of white-nose syndrome or causal fungal agent (Geomyces destructans). During this...Valdez, Ernest W.
Bats of Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: composition, reproduction, and roosting habits.
We determined the bat fauna at Mesa Verde National Park (Mesa Verde) in 2006 and 2007, characterized bat elevational distribution and reproduction, and investigated roosting habits of selected species. We captured 1996 bats of 15 species in mist nets set over water during 120 nights of sampling and recorded echolocation calls of an additional...O'Shea, Thomas J.; Cryan, Paul M.; Snider, E. Apple; Valdez, Ernest W.; Ellison, Laura E.; Neubaum, Daniel J.
Status and Natural History of Emballonura Semicaudata Rotensis on Aguiguan, Mariana Islands
Pacific sheath-tailed bats (Emballonura semicaudata rotensis) in the Mariana Islands declined greatly in abundance and distribution during the 20th century. The small island of Aguiguan now supports the only persisting population. We studied abundance and natural history of this population from 1995–2008. There was a likely population increase...Wiles, Gary J.; O'Shea, Thomas J.; Worthington, David J.; Esselstyn, Jacob A.; Valdez, Ernest W.
Diets of the Sympatric Pacific Sheath-Tailed Bat (Emballonura semicaudata rotensis) and Mariana Swiftlet (Aerodramus bartschi) on Aguiguan, Mariana Islands
The Pacific sheath-tailed bat (Emballonura semicaudata rotensis) and Mariana swiftlet (Aerodramus bartschi) are two rare insectivorous taxa restricted to the southern Mariana Islands in western Micronesia. It is believed that populations of both have dwindled because of impacts to their food resources. However, there is little information on the...Valdez, Ernest W.; Wiles, Gary J.; O'Shea, Thomas J.