Our nocturnal neighbours: learning about them through research

Following our 2018 grant call, Kone Foundation has awarded 26 million euros in grants to bold initiatives in research and art. In all, 277 individuals, organizations or work groups will receive funding. Ecologist Thomas Lilley’s project brings together a multidisciplinary group of new bold makers.

After rodents, bats are the largest order of mammals in the world. However, relatively little is known about them in Finland, even new species could still be found.

This limited understanding about our winged, nocturnal neighbours made ecologist Thomas Lilley wonder whether our negative images of bats as blood-sucking vampires have anything to do with our lack of knowledge about them. The project run by Curator Lilley from the Finnish Museum of Natural History includes researchers of both environmental science and social psychology: from the Finnish Museum of Natural History, along with Lilley himself, Project Researcher Eeva-Maria Kyheröinen, from the Natural Resources Institute Finland researcher Ann Ojala as well as Associate Professor Annukka Vainio from University of Helsinki’s Institute of Sustainability Science. Piia Lundberg‘s post-doctoral research will be based on the project, and subject teacher Tapio Levanto acts as consultant for the team on the application of the project in teaching.

“Biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, and studies show that biodiversity loss is also a threat to humankind. Right now, monitoring the changes occurring in nature is more important than ever. For example, the ecosystem services gained via bats also benefit agriculture and forestry, because bats eat a considerable amount of pest insects.

The goal of the project is to collect acoustic material about protected bats throughout Finland in collaboration with schools. Collected by students of general upper secondary schools, the material will be stored in the database of the Finnish Biodiversity Information Facility and made available to everyone as open data. At the same time, the participants’ relationship with their non-human neighbours under observation will be studied, and young people’s environmental consciousness and scientific literacy skills will grow. Studies show that people who know more about bats have a more positive attitude towards them than those with less knowledge.

We don’t believe ecological problems can be solved simply through ecological research. In this project, we are combining multidisciplinary research with education and civic activities. We believe that in the future, multidisciplinary approaches will no longer be unusual but instead a more mainstream way of conducting scientific research. Already, a problem-oriented approach has been adopted in sustainability studies without limiting the field to a single branch of science.”


Suvi Korhonen