News for NMU Employees

Campus Closeup: Shawn Davis

Shawn Davis (CAPS) and other recreational rock climbers are engaged in a novel collaboration with biologists to identify the locations of western North American bat populations. He spent part of NMU’s spring break at a meeting of Climbers for Bat Conservation in Fort Collins, Colo., where attendees discussed steps for expanding and refining the project. Monitoring the whereabouts of bats is especially important because their populations have declined to unprecedented levels attributed to wind energy development and new diseases.

Biologists at Colorado State University (Davis’ previous employer) theorize that many bats are roosting in vertical cracks and crevices in rock walls—a plentiful feature in the state—rather than in cave systems or old mines. They decided to partner with rock climbers, who are uniquely qualified to report on roosting sites in hard-to-reach places.

“The idea is to educate climbers about bat conservation and enlist their help collecting information that may address whether bats switch roosts, how much they utilize the crack system and what kinds are typically found there,” he said. “The other goal is to preserve recreational resources for climbers and engage them in the conservation effort. Both are important. In the past, blanket decisions were made when raptors were nesting to close entire mountains instead of isolated sections. That created some conflict with the climbing community. This collaboration of groups who tend to silo themselves exposes each to the other’s perspective. It shows that both conservation and access are valued.”


Climbers for Bat Conservation has implemented a “soft launch” of an iNaturalist app that Davis said can geo-locate where climbers spot roosting sites. The data will populate a map on the group’s website, which is in development.

Davis was first introduced to rock climbing by a college roommate. He carried the interest from the East Coast to Colorado, where he completed a master’s and doctorate at CSU before teaching environmental communications at the university. Davis’ appointment at NMU began this past fall and includes courses in public address and small-group process. He will teach research methods in communication and hopes to later add his specialty of environmental communication.

“This is a great location,” Davis said of Marquette. “The people are friendly and open, there’s an adventurous spirit and I’ve noticed a great propensity for getting outside. I enjoy hiking and trail running. I used to be a year-round bike commuter, but haven’t fully continued that here. However, I did get into snow biking this winter and had a fun introduction to fat tires. My theory is, if it’s going to be cold, there might as well be snow. Marquette will also be a great place for sailing. I did that growing up on Chesapeake Bay and circumnavigated the Delmarva Peninsula.”

Davis met his wife, Carolyn, through their jobs at a YMCA camp on Chesapeake Bay. He led Elderhostel backpacking and sailing trips; she led school and corporate groups in team-building exercises. They reconnected when Davis returned to the East Coast from Colorado and they later married. Davis lost his first wedding ring. His replacement, a tattooed band, doesn’t carry that risk (or interfere with rock climbing). Carolyn is an independent sales consultant for a natural skin care product company. The couple has a dog, Sebastian, an Australian shepherd/chocolate lab mix.