WATCH | This bat conservationist is signalling a new era for women in STEM
Kristen Lear’s fascination with bats goes as far back as the sixth grade.
While her peers may have been hanging out at the mall or playing sports in the local parks, she would design and install shelters for animals in her home state of Colorado.
Today, Lear is an Endangered Species Interventions Specialist with Bat Conservation International, and she’s on a mission to change the face of her field.
“I work with girls and young women to inspire the next generation of women STEM pioneers,” she says.
After completing a PhD in Integrative Conservation, Lear kick-started her career in bat conservation and is working to restore the waning population of Mexican long-nosed and lesser long-nosed bats.
For over 50 million years, these mammals have played an important role in biodiversity as seed carriers, pollinators, and pest controllers.
"Currently I help lead Bat Conservation International's Agave Restoration Initiative, a bi-national effort to protect an endangered pollinator corridor across the southwestern United States and Mexico," Lear says.
Invasive species, climate change, and habitat destruction have been major threats to bats. In the last decade, the Mexican long-nosed population plummeted by 50%.
Lear aims to plant over 100 000 agaves to preserve the pathways of these nectar-feeding animals, ensuring they continue their crucial role.
Using her experience and knowledge, she now empowers aspiring female conservationists.
"The information about our natural world shouldn't just be for scientists," Lear says.
“It needs to be for the generations to come that will be left to look after the natural world.”
As an AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador – a platform for women in science and technology – she runs outreach programmes, offers mentorship, and delivers workshops and presentations to share her wisdom and promote inclusivity.
While Lear continues to be a beacon of inspiration for future scientists, her work shows that the success of preserving bats lies in creating opportunities for women.
“I want to help create that spark that ultimately leads to a path in conservation, because it happened to me,” she says. “I hope to be that spark for someone else.”
Footage and photos by Bat Conservation International, Dan Taylor, Silvino Eduardo Hernández Cárdenas, Winifred Frick, Rebecca Wright, Steve Bourne, Harry Hayes, Kristen Morales and the IF/THEN Collection were used in the production of this film.