Date of Graduation

Spring 2024


Master of Science in Biology



Committee Chair

Giorgia Auteri


Anthropogenic activity has prompted range shifts, extirpations, and behavioral change of native wildlife. Although humans have long altered the landscape, recent (post-1950s) increases in land use intensification has significantly impacted wildlife habitat and biodiversity. As anthropogenic developments and disturbances compromise habitat, some species have begun to exploit urban areas. While there are some commonalities among synurbic species, such as generalist diets and high fecundity, not all urban wildlife share these characteristics. As urban areas expand, it will be essential to distinguish what drives unique species to select for urban habitat. The gray bat, Myotis grisescens, is an endangered species that has increased in abundance following heightened conservation efforts of summer and winter use caves. The species has, anecdotally, become more common in highly disturbed areas despite previously recorded narrow habitat requirements. I seek to understand whether behavioral changes in the form of tolerance to anthropogenic disturbance such as light and sound can be observed between urban bats compared to their rural counterparts. I also tested if urban bats tended to be more exploratory of novel environments and bolder when approaching stimuli. I tested individuals for behavioral differences using a standard Y-maze test at spring, summer, and fall colonies. Age and sex of the individual was added as an interaction to the model. In a preliminary analysis, I considered species-level differences in behavior. I found that the classic synurbic species, Eptesicus fuscus, was more tolerant to light stimuli and explored more of the Y-maze. However, M. grisescens was more tolerant to sound. For my second chapter, I considered if M. grisescens behavior was markedly different between urban and rural colonies. Juveniles in non-urban sites were more exploratory than non-urban juveniles, and males were bolder than females. Although there was not a distinct difference between urban and non-urban M. grisescens behavior, M. grisescens were consistently more tolerant to sound than light. Future conservation decisions should be made in consideration of the ecological and evolutionary trajectories of species under selective pressure to adapt to urban areas.


urbanization, behavioral ecology, Myotis grisescens, land use, boldness, habitat

Subject Categories

Behavior and Ethology


© Aleana R. Savage

Available for download on Thursday, May 01, 2025

Open Access