Ambient lighting and laughter filled The Red Clay Brewing Company in Opelika on Thursday night, as a local scientist presented his most recent research.
Members of the community gathered to hear Matt Grilliot, assistant professor for Troy University at Montgomery, speak at the semi-monthly Science Pub. The topic? “An “Itchy” Situation: Bats, White Noses, and a Terrible Fungus,” a compilation of work done by Grilliot and his team on a rather troubling new disease seen in the American bat population.
The atmosphere at the Brewing Company was both relaxing and inviting as the event’s organizers hoped it would be.
Grilliot, an Auburn alumnus, focused his Ph.D. work on echolocation and communication between bats, and his research continues with this new “white nose” disease and its effects, as well as its prevalence throughout the nation.
"I want to raise awareness for why this is such a big deal,” Grilliot said.
He answered questions from his listeners as they lounged on their barstools. Adults enjoyed fresh pizza and some sipped on their beers as children petted the two large and loving golden retrievers in attendance.
The dogs' owners, Michael and Kitty Greene, retired professors who have lived in Opelika for 31 years, said it was their first time attending the event series.
“The Grilliots live across the street from us. ... We love them, and they are so interesting," Kitty Greene said. "They are so kind, and they helped us when we found bats in our attic."
Just as he had done with his neighbors, Grilliot explained to listeners how to build bat homes, how to attract bats and how to do amateur health checks for those that visited their backyards.
Congenial laughter roared when organizer Josh King asked Grilliot if he was willing to stay and answer some questions, to which Grilliot quickly replied with a sarcastic and rather emphatic “no.”
“Actually, yes. I feel like I am obligated to at this point,” Grilliot said.
It was Cristina VanTassel’s first time attending the full lecture. A student at Tuskegee College of Veterinary Medicine, she said that she and a study partner caught the last few minutes of the August Science Cafe and had to check out the next Science Pub.
“This is a pleasant escape from school,” VanTassel said. “And the pizza looked really good, although I didn’t try it.”
VanTassel said she is already looking forward to next month’s lecture.
All of the Pubs and Cafes are free to the public. Proceeds from select Science Pub drinks benefit the Alabama Natural Heritage Program at Auburn University, and their efforts to conserve rare species in the state of Alabama.
The next Science Cafe is Oct. 17 at Mama Mochas on Gay Street. It will be a discussion on climate change presented by Mike Fogle.
For more information on the lecture or other upcoming events, visit the Auburn and Opelika Tourism Board's website.