Palmetto High School senior Katherine Signori is Palmetto’s Silver Knight nominee in the area of digital and interactive media.
Students applying for Silver Knight usually do major community service projects in their application. Signori’s project was raising awareness about the endangered South Florida bonneted bat. It also served as her Girl Scout Gold Award project.
The bats fascinate her.
“I never considered bats to be a part of my life,” she says. “I learned about this bat and I think it’s the most interesting thing and I want to do everything I can to save it.”
For her project, she created accounts on several social media platforms to bring the information to the public. Those accounts include Facebook: Thinking Outside of the Bat Box (@bonnetedbat), Twitter: @bonnetedbat, Instagram: @bonnetedbat and YouTube: Bonneted Bat.
“I worked with people at the zoo to learn more about bats and spread information about it,” she says. “I did a lot of research.”
The bonneted bat is the only bat indigenous to South Florida.
“It’s our little animals. It’s our duty to take care of it,” she says. “Once I learned about it, I thought it was something more people should learn about because it’s important to our ecosystem.”
The bonneted bats are important because they eat huge amounts of insects every night.
“They are the biggest bat in South Florida,” she says. “They are larger than the most common bat, the Mexican free tail bat.”
Often folks are wary of bats because some bats carry rabies. Signori says that’s not a problem with the bonneted bat. Signori became interested in bonneted bats when she stumbled on an article while looking online.
“I thought it was odd about a big roost of bats living in a Coral Gables,” she says. “They don’t have a home, so they go looking for the Spanish tile on a lot of the Coral Gables homes.”
Currently, it’s estimated that there are a couple of hundred of the endangered bonneted bats left. ZooMiami and the University of Florida are two organizations researching the bats.
For the project she also built bat boxes that were placed throughout the community.
“I put one in a Girl Scout camp, Camp Mahachee,” she says. “The last three are in private residences. Zoo Miami has a couple of their own. There is a Girl Scout troop that put one on their property.”
She continues to build bat boxes.
“I hosted a bat box painting workshop,” she says. “They got to see me post the box at their site. It was fun for them to see what they painted on the pole.”
Bat boxes need to be painted darker colors because the bats require heat.
“Our boxes are a dark gray with black interior to keep the heat in,” she says.
At Palmetto she’s president of Thespians. They recently participated in the district competition, earning three Critic’s Choice Awards.
“We are incredibly honored to have been chosen to perform our show, The Drowsy Chaperone, at the State Festival in March. It is a really big deal and we are all so excited.”
She’s in student council and the National Honor Society. Her biggest role is chairperson for the Palmetto Bay Youth Advisory Council.
“I was part of the original group,” she says. “We work on Relay for Life.”
With the start of the new year, the council is getting new members.
In college she intends to major in digital media.
“I’m interested in all things film and photography,” she says.
She’d love to go out of state for college but is impressed with Florida schools.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld