Methods for assessing artificial thermal refuges: Spatiotemporal analysis more informative than averages

George S. Bakken, Francis E. Tillman, Joy M. O'Keefe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1: Thermal refuges are widely used by animals of all taxonomic groups and are critical to survival in severe weather. 2: Human activities are reducing the availability of natural refuges; consequently, artificial refuges are used as conservation management tools, particularly for bats. 3: Published box evaluations are generally incomplete, omitting thermal physiology and relevant thermal properties. 4: Here, we compare methods for evaluating the potential utility of bat box designs for bats and present a graphical spatiotemporal method that provides more complete information. 5: For illustration, we compare the original to three modified versions of the “rocket box” style bat box. 6: Box internal temperatures and generalized thermal physiology models are combined in two suitability indices appropriate to the mother, and to pups. 7: Results revealed that daily and seasonal averages of these indices obscured important processes and showed insignificant differences among bat box design modifications. 8: In contrast, graphical analysis highlighted the presence and spatiotemporal structure of significant differences among boxes, which were most evident in sunny weather. 9: Differences among boxes were sensitive to assumptions about bat thermal physiology and behavior. 10: We found that an external water jacket mitigated temperature extremes and extended favorable temperatures into the night, which could enhance pup development while the mothers foraged. 11: Further experiments are needed to evaluate the relation between metabolic heating by box occupants and thermal conditions within bat boxes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103150
JournalJournal of Thermal Biology
StatePublished - Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Bat box
  • Bats
  • Conservation
  • Microclimate
  • Reproduction
  • Thermal refuge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Biochemistry
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • Developmental Biology


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