Comic book fans and TV watchers know all about the secret bat lab at fictional Wayne Manor in Gotham City.

But Nerisa Taua, a Chaminade University Environmental Studies major, knows about a real bat lab. It’s housed at Purdue University in Indiana, where she focused on three species of the flying mammals through the national Summer Research Opportunity Program.

Nerisa Taua“Spending the whole summer catching bats was fun, mostly because of the people I got to do it with,” according to Taua, who interned with Associate Professor of Wildlife Science Patrick Zollner and his Hoosier “bat crew.”

“Working with them has been a great experience,” said Taua, who plans to apply for graduate school at the West Lafayette campus.

Encouraging Taua to pursue the internship were Environmental Studies Director and Associate Professor Gail Grabowsky, along with Associate Provost Patricia Lee-Robinson from Chaminade’s Office of Health Professions Advising and Undergraduate Research.

“I was interested in working with endangered species or wildlife conservation,” Taua said. “I found a couple of interesting internships. However, most of them didn’t provide board and/or transportation, which was a problem for me.”

Fortunately for Taua, the Purdue program fit her needs.

Taua’s research centered on the detection rate of bats using acoustic monitoring equipment and the subsequent capture rate of bats using mist nets. Similar to volleyball nets, mist nets catch birds and bats in flight so they can be tagged and studied by scientists.

“I found a significant relationship between detection rate and number of captures was only present for Indiana bats and not Big brown bats and Eastern red bats,” Taua explained. This can be because Indiana bats have specific habitat requirements, while Big brown bats and Eastern red bats are omnipresent in the landscape.”

Based on these preliminary results, Taua and her Indiana colleagues decided to expand their study with the goal of publishing a paper.

“So while I am here in Hawaii, the bat lab is sending me data to analyze,” Taua said. She also reunited with her colleagues recently through Purdue’s Graduate Diversity Visitation Program “to talk about where we are with the project and manuscript.”

Nerisa TauaTaua, who’s from American Samoa, learned about Chaminade when a team from the university visited her high school during senior year.

“I was attracted to the small classroom size because it made it possible for students to have a positive interaction with their professors,” she said. “I spoke with alumni and they all said great things about the Chaminade community.

“This was something I looked for in an institution – a university with a community that is home away from home.”

Taua said her professors – notably Dr. Grabowsky – “taught me a lot of important lessons that are not only useful in the classroom but also life in general.”

“Dr. Gail has helped my passion for wildlife, environment and my culture grow,” Taua emphasized. “Her enthusiastic personality always reminds me why it is important to love what you do and do what you love.”


Chaminade University’s Environmental Studies undergraduate program within the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics employs a multidisciplinary approach in exploring issues such as policy and law, science, economics, ethics and values.