Welcome to Abby Pagels, who joined the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) in October 2022 as an acoustic coordinator with the Illinois Bat Conservation Program (IBCP)!
“I am really excited to learn more about acoustic monitoring for bats and how we can use data from these surveys to better understand Illinois bat populations,” Abby said.
Abby first learned about bats while earning her bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University. When she heard about the devastating effects of white nose syndrome on North American bat populations, it struck a chord.
“I remember highlighting and circling that section in my notes to remind me to look for a bat job after graduating,” Abby said. “I like to root for the underdog, and I knew then I wanted to be a bat advocate!”
Like snakes and some insects, Abby believes bats get a bad rap.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about them,” Abby explained. When she tells people she works with bats, Abby often gets questions like, “Aren't they just flying rodents? Don’t they go right for your hair? Aren’t you afraid you’ll get rabies?”
“It really makes my day when I can take the time and explain to someone why bats are great and change someone’s view from ‘ew, bats’ to ‘yay, bats,” Abby said.
Since graduating, Abby has worked as a technician in a few fields—stream ecology, entomology and predator management—but she has also spent some summers studying her favorite underdogs, including one summer examining pollinating bats in remote New Mexico and two summers surveying bats with INHS’s Illinois Bat Conservation Program (IBCP).
Now she is excited to expand her bat background through her new role as an acoustic coordinator with IBCP.
“Most of my experience has been field-based, so I am eager to learn the processing methods for data after it is collected,” Abby said.
As a long-time lover of animals and exploration, Abby is thrilled by the blend of duties her career can offer.
“I love being a scientist because of the variety of tasks I get to do. I could be in the field catching bats, in the lab processing data, driving around the state for acoustic surveys or putting on an outreach presentation for a library club,” Abby said. “There is something new every day and the variability makes it fun!”
Though finding full-time work in science can be challenging and competitive, Abby urges aspiring scientists to not give up.
“If this is a career you truly want, keep trying! Rejection will happen, but you can’t let that stop you. Just try again,” she says. “Don’t let self-doubt control you.”