Ohio Wesleyan University graduating senior Kristen Lear has earned a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship to research conservation of the critically endangered Southern Bent-wing Bat in Australia.
Lear, a pre-professional zoology major and 2007 graduate of Cincinnati’s Finneytown High School, will begin her Fulbright-sponsored research in September.
“Receiving the Fulbright is like a dream come true,” says Lear, who has participated in hands-on scientific research since her freshman year at Ohio Wesleyan. “It’s been a long process—from applying in October to receiving final notification at the end of April—but it’s well worth it. This grant will give me an opportunity to travel abroad to Australia for a year and pursue an independent research project on bats.”
The Fulbright Scholar Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the largest U.S. international exchange program for students, scholars, and professionals in the world. It currently operates in more than 155 countries, with recipients chosen based on their academic merit and leadership potential.
During her year in Australia, Lear will live and work in Naracoorte Caves National Park in South Australia. She will work with researchers seeking to develop an automated counting system for the Southern Bent-wing Bats that uses a thermal-imaging camera and missile-tracking software. Lear will help to refine and test the system so that it can be used to take regular estimates of the bat population.
At Ohio Wesleyan, Lear spent two summers researching Evening bats in Texas, culminating in her senior honors thesis. Her research involved determining what style of bat house attracted the most bats to live near the region’s pecan orchards. Lear’s goal was to help farmers attract Evening bats to their property to help control specific pest insects and reduce their pesticide use.
“The summer research experiences I have had over the past several years have allowed me to develop my passion for bats, and the Fulbright is like a culmination of these experiences,” Lear said. “I cannot even begin to express how excited I am to begin this new part of my career!”
President Rock Jones says Lear is an exceptional student who will live up to the Fulbright Scholarship’s high expectations and ideals.
“Kristen has excelled at Ohio Wesleyan since setting foot on campus,” Jones says. “She is intelligent, intellectually curious, passionate about science, and committed to making a difference in the world. That combination will take her far. The campus also is excited that she is the third member of the OWU family to earn a highly competitive Fulbright award in the past year.”
Gloria Twesigye, a 2007 OWU alumna, earned a Fulbright Scholarship in April 2010 to research efforts in Germany to rehabilitate former child soldiers from the Republic of Uganda in Africa. And history professor Michael W. Flamm, Ph.D., earned a scholarship in January 2010, allowing him to teach two courses at the University of San Andrés in Buenos Aires. His courses explored the causes, costs, and consequences of America’s emergence as a global power during the 20th century.