Vision at the Arboretum: Get eye-to-eye with a bat.


Some of nature’s most interesting eyes will alight on campus this Saturday for the third annual Vision at the Arboretum, an opportunity to learn more about your own sight through the prism of some flying peepers.viz flyer

“Studies of animal vision help us to understand our own visual system,” says Nansi Colley, a professor of visual sciences and genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison whose research examines fruit fly eyes in an effort to learn more vision across species. “It also helps us to understand how animals interact with their environment and how nature works.”

Presented by UW–Madison’s McPherson Eye Research Institute, Vision at the Arboretum runs from 9:30 to noon at the Arboretum Visitor Center, 1207 Seminole Highway.

Past programs have featured live animals to help explore sight in flight — through the eyes of insects like bees, moths and Colley Lab flies — and life on the prairie pitting the senses of birds of prey like hawks against those of twitchy prey animals like ground squirrels.

This weekend’s version gets dark with “Fly by Night,” starring a pair of animals notorious for their nocturnal senses: owls and bats.

Gillian Shaw, a veterinarian and fellow at UW–Madison’s Comparative Ocular Pathology Laboratory of Wisconsin, will talk about the remarkable visual systems of owls and bats.

A great horned owl gets a follow-up eye exam while recovering from cataract surgery at the UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

A great horned owl gets a follow-up eye exam while recovering from cataract surgery at the UW–Madison School of Veterinary Medicine. (Photo by Jeff Miller/UW-Madison)

Not even eye balls, per se, owl eyes are elongated and mushroom-shaped, heavily specialized for distance vision and making use of tiny amounts of light. Even still, owls also rely on their hearing, which is how bats make a living — maneuvering and “seeing” using sound.

Melissa Behr of the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory, will zero in on environmental threats, like white-nose syndrome, that threaten bat populations in Wisconsin.

Matt Reetz, executive director of the Madison Audubon Society, will talk about the sorts of owls we can see in the wild in Wisconsin.

Visitors will get up-close looks at taxidermied owl specimens and owl pellets (the undigested bones and feathers and other parts of meals regurgitated by owls).

The little brown bat, common in Wisconsin, and its kind will be front and center Saturday at the UW Arboretum. (Photo courtesy Wisconsin DNR.)

The little brown bat, common in Wisconsin, and its kind will be front and center Saturday at the UW Arboretum. (Photo courtesy Wisconsin DNR.)

And there will be bats. That’s right, live bats, accompanying their friend Jennifer Redell, a Department of Natural Resources cave and mine specialist.

Admission is $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 12 and under, and refreshments will be served after the program. Walk-ins are welcome, but to register, call 608-265-4023 or email info@vision.wisc.edu.