Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)

June 17, 2015 14:30 ET

Western University's "Batman" Recognized for Life-Long Popularization of Bat Biology to the Canadian Public

Biologist and Bat Expert Brock Fenton Wins $10,000 Award for Science Promotion

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - June 17, 2015) - Brock Fenton, Canada's "batman," and world-recognized authority on bats is the winner of this year's NSERC Award for Science Promotion (Individual) from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

The award, presented to Dr. Fenton today by the Honourable Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology), honours individuals who are inspirational in the way they promote science and engineering to the general public. Winners are nominated by their peers and stand out for their ability to teach the public about science and motivate youth to pursue careers in the natural sciences and engineering.

Dr. Fenton captures people's fascination with bats to teach them about bat evolution, their specialized biology, and unique behavior. He also seeks to involve communities in the protection of bats and their natural habitats. His publications and presentations are made even more memorable by the anecdotes that he includes about his field work and research.

Dr. Fenton has written many publications about bats aimed at the public and given hundreds of public talks and media interviews on the science of bats. On top of his own outreach work, Dr. Fenton has committed himself to encouraging outreach by the students he mentors as well as researchers.

Quick Facts

- In addition to his regular outreach, Dr. Fenton often leads "bat walks" in Toronto's High Park to give people a chance to see bats up close and hear their echolocation emissions thanks to an electronic bat detector that rebroadcasts their inaudible high-pitched sounds at a frequency that humans can hear.

- Dr. Fenton has volunteered for the World Wildlife Fund, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario, Science North, the High Park Nature Centre and the Royal Ontario Museum.

- Dr. Fenton has been honoured with:

- Four prestigious awards for raising public awareness of science and a Zotz Award for bridging research, conservation and public education.

- A 3M Teaching Fellowship from the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education and teaching awards from Carleton University and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations.

Quotes

"Fostering science culture in Canada is a high priority for NSERC. It is scientists like Dr. Fenton who are indispensable to building this culture. He has tremendous zeal for natural science and a history of going above-and-beyond to spread his knowledge to the public. Without this kind of energy and dedication to outreach from the scientific community Canada cannot achieve a science culture. I want to congratulate Dr. Fenton on winning this award. I know that people of all ages and backgrounds across the country will be inspired by his work."

- Dr. B. Mario Pinto, President, NSERC

Associated Links

http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/Prizes-Prix/SciencePromotion-PromotionScience/Index-Index_eng.asp

About NSERC

NSERC is the primary funding agency supporting Canada's science and engineering research community. The agency supports almost 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding approximately 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by working with over 3,000 Canadian companies that are participating and investing in post-secondary research projects.

Dr. Brock Fenton, Western University

If you asked Dr. Brock Fenton to name his favorite bat, he would tell you that his answer changes every day. For him as a scientist, each day is better than the last. One enlightening experience follows another.

For years, Fenton has channeled this passion for learning about bats into devising new ways of teaching people about them. For example, he uses pizza to teach children about their feeding habits. A female bat nursing her pups will eat her weight in food every night, so he decided to use the visual of a four-year-old girl standing next to her weight in boxes of pizza in order to illustrate this to children - the boxes reached up to her ears.

Throughout his career, Dr. Fenton has taught biologists and conservationists about bats both across Canada and internationally. He has received numerous NSERC Discovery Grants for studying the behavioral ecology of bats and has received many awards for his research, including a Honourary Life Member award from the Canadian Society of Zoologists. Yet it has always been of the highest importance to Dr. Fenton that everyone, not just professionals, understands the impact that science has on their lives. He has written seven books on bats aimed at non-professionals along with 27 general interest publications.

Dr. Fenton is passionate about showing his audience the importance of the natural world and its diversity. As nocturnal flying mammals with many unique characteristics, bats give the public a good impression of how diverse nature is. The small winged creatures offer a compelling avenue through which people can understand how science affects their lives. For example, bat research has led to unexpected discoveries and innovations, such as a drug under development for stroke patients that was inspired by the study of vampire bats. The drug exploits the chemicals that vampire bats use to get clots out of the blood they feed on.

As a retired professor, Dr. Fenton encourages science outreach in the next generation of scientists. As a mentor, he tells his students the secrets to effective science outreach: straightforward language, personalized anecdotes, and a clear display of enthusiasm. As he says, personal stories about doing research are more memorable than a detached report of what other scientists have done. A former student of Dr. Fenton's who now works for the Discovery Channel credits the passion he developed for biology to his example. Many other students have a similar story.

Contact Information

  • Scott French
    Director of Communications and Parliamentary Affairs
    Office of the Minister of State (Science and Technology)
    343-291-2700

    Martin Leroux
    Media and Public Affairs Officer
    Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
    613-943-7618
    media@nserc-crsng.gc.ca