In collaboration with Natalie Jeremijenko
Bats play a key role in many ecosystems, pollinating plants and providing insect control, but in urban habitats they are often misunderstood, thought to be threats or pests. The Bat Billboard, an interactive billboard that doubles as housing for bats, is a way to dispel this misinformation as well as creating a bridge between bats and humans. Inside a standard billboard structure, urban bats find a safe space to live and hibernate, helping to counteract the effects of white-nose syndrome (a mysterious disease that has killed more than a million bats since 2007) and other threats to their populations. Monitoring equipment inside the billboard uses voice-recognition software to map and translate the calls of resident bats, matches them to archives of various call patterns and meanings, currently being compiled by biologists, and displays the resulting messages on a screen.
The billboard inventively reclaims urban infrastructure for animal habitat and also functions as a public face for the bats, translating their habits and activities in a way that humans can understand. Through voice (bat call) recognition software, the billboard can become an interactive display and a public face for the bats and can enable them to communicate with us about their needs in the urban environment. This communication can be playful and has the potential to create a previously unseen form of viral advertising, as well as an ongoing attention to fostering, studying, and maintaining the bat population therein.