Their duty is to clean the ecosystem, not suck on blood, yet bats are often viewed as something to be feared. The 9th Annual Indiana Bat Festival was held at the Science Building and Dobbs Park on Sept. 19 in an effort to educate the community on the importance of bats.

“This festival was started by Dr. John Whitaker Jr., who is a retired faculty member in biology,” said Dr. Joy O’Keefe, director of the Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation at ISU. “His vision was to have an annual festival to teach the public about bats and their importance.”

Inside the Science Building, festival organizers built a bat-cave obstacle course for kids. Live bat and live raptor demonstrations were presented, along with various educational booths. At Dobbs Park, the festival hosted a variety of educational activities including another live raptor demonstration and a nature hike.

Rob Mies, executive director and co-founder of the Organization for Bat Conservation, gave three live encounter presentations throughout his visit. Mies, who has appeared on NBC’s “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” showed members of the communities of Terre Haute and ISU some of the most unique bats in the world. As the day progressed, many of the visitors to ISU and Dobbs Park came to see Mies’ presentation.

“Bats are very interesting,” said James Cox, an ISU graduate and researcher. “For one, they are the only mammal that can fly. However, the most important part about bats is their ability to eat insects and protect our crops to deliver a cleaner ecosystem. Many people don’t understand the important role bats play in our world.”

The demonstrations definitely stole the show, and it was a true educational experience for those who may have had misconceptions about bats.

“They are very important to the ecosystem. Some of these bats you’ll never see again, and it’s really an experience if you don’t know much about them,” said senior marketing major Seth Wiram.