unimelb field guide

Bats in the MSD

13 July 2017

There are ten bat colonies living around the University of Melbourne, and each one represents a different Bachelor degree. The Bats of Arts live in Baillieu (third floor ceiling); the Bats of Commerce hang in The Spot; and the Bats of Science stay close to the Bats of Biomed, because they are not quite sure if they are separate colonies.

The Bats of Design live in the MSD. There are lots, so they are scattered around the floors. Some roost in the basement, where there are concrete walls and two looming, limestone statues. Others rest in the Architecture library. They sleep in the day time (of course), but they’re rarely seen by students because they are contemporary bats, and this means that when you see them clinging to the ceiling, they just look like CCTV cameras or smoke alarms.

At night, they swoop around and snatch up insects, which is why you never see spiders inside the MSD. They also rattle through the vents and flutter around the workshops, but they are gentle and never gnaw wires or insulation. They hover over the benches, above the glue, wood, and foam, and admire those complex cardboard models that the Architecture majors are always bringing on buses.

After the croissant trend caught on (and students started queuing at the MSD photocopiers to try and print cross-sections of their brunch), the bats began scanning their wings. Some scans get blurred, because the bats move when the machine flashes. But most are so clear that you can see every bone. You can tell which bat they belong to by the texture of the ink.

The Bats of Design have webbed wings, silver fur with pink patches, and large ears for echolocation — which is the sonar system they use to find things at night. Given they are contemporary bats, their senses are also synced with the Uni’s wireless network, meaning they can hear library books. Each book echoes differently depending on its call number. For example, Green Building and Renovating (690.8 HA) sounds quite pitched when compared with Gothic Architecture (726.50940902 FRAN). The ten bat colonies might live in different buildings, but they can still listen to the books in one another’s libraries.


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