Today@Sam Article

Researching The Economic Impact Of Bats

Nov. 10, 2022
SHSU Media Contact: Emily Binetti

Makenzie Hesse and Christian Raschke

 When a local issue is brought to the table, collective conversations can often generate ideas and solutions. One recent example addresses the community concern of Huntsville’s massive bat colony, an issue that continues to grow in attention, even making national headlines last month.

Thanks to the efforts of the Sam Houston State University Gibson D. Lewis Center for Business and Economic Development, along with student volunteers, the university is supporting the City of Huntsville through a unique research project.

“We are working with the city to investigate the economic impact and potential of the 1-million Mexican free-tailed bats living in the abandoned warehouse next to the Walls Unit just north of campus,” said Christian Raschke, director of the center and associate professor of economics. “In order to determine the existing economic impact of the visitors coming to see the bats, it is important to establish where the visitors are coming from. Visitors from out of town contribute to our local economy by spending money for food and lodging in our community during their visit.”

To gather information on who is coming to Huntsville to see the bats, the center launched a survey initiative with senior economics major, Makenzie Hesse, serving as the lead student on the effort.

221104_shsu_makenzie_hesse_0004 SQ“I created the survey and then recruited a group of 22 student volunteers through the Smith-Hutson Scholars program and the Elliott T. Bowers Honors College. As a member of both campus groups, I know of their generosity,” Hesse said. “I went with the volunteers to the warehouse every night for a week, gave them a brief training, and we administered the survey to visitors. I also collected and ran analysis on the data.”

Hesse, who is also a student assistant for the center, was so intrigued by the project she decided to also devote a thesis paper to the topic.

“When the city approached the center with the idea of doing this survey, I knew I had to make it happen,” Hesse said. “With my background in both biology and economics, I wanted to give back to Huntsville by conducting this survey and writing a paper where all of the complex information can be found in one place.”

In addition to providing the data collected, Hesse’s thesis also covers details like the history of the warehouse colony, a description of the bat roost and building, biological facts and proposed tourism ideas based on other bat colonies. 

“The effort has been a great success. We engaged with over 120 visitors and the leader of a local bat conservation non-profit group,” Raschke said. “A report discussing the results of the survey is being prepared to be shared with the city as part of the larger project investigating the economic impact and economic potential of the bats.”

- END -

This page maintained by SHSU's Communications Office:

Director of Content Communications: Emily Binetti

Communications Manager: Mikah Boyd
Telephone: 936.294.1837

Communications Specialist: Campbell Atkins
Telephone: 936.294.2638

Please send comments, corrections, news tips to