TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Indiana State University assistant professor Dr. Aaron Gooley knows the common perceptions of bats.

“People think bats are scary. They think they’re icky,” he recounted. “They’re not. They’re little fuzz balls, actually. They are little puffs of fur, flying through the air.”

Gooley is one of many enthusiastic participants in the 16th annual Bat Festival at ISU, which Gooley referred to as a celebration of the mammal.

He said he looks forward to the crowds each year.

“I like seeing all the smiles on the families faces. I like that the kids are getting out and getting some education on bats while having run,” Gooley said. “It’s easier to learn if you’re having fun while you’re learning. I think that’s one of the great things about the event.”

Gooley said bats provide a number of benefits to the environment.

A bat eats about its own body weight in insects each night. Imagine all those insects that could be bothering crops, that could be biting you, these bats are removing them from our environment,” he said. “In other locations, bats are very important pollinators. In a lot of tropical areas, bats are very important for seed dispersal.”

He said bat population is declining around North America. He hopes the event can help raise awareness to this fact.

“This is the 16th year of the event, we have no plans to stop the event, and every year we’re looking at ways to improve, to add features, to add family fun activities,” he said.