Portrait photo of Johan Eklöf dressed in black clothes and standing among exotic plants and trees

“Kids are naturally interested in science”

Johan Eklöf is a bat researcher and a writer.

“I’m a consultant, I run my own company. During the summer months, I survey bats, and in the winter I write books. Bats hibernate in winter, which means you can’t do much in the way of studies of them then.

The very best thing about my job is that there are two such different periods. When autumn comes, I’m usually pretty happy to head off to the office and bury myself in my work and start writing something. By the time spring arrives, I’ve had enough and I look forward to going out into the field.

The fact that it ended up being bats was pure chance. I was studying Biology and ended up doing my degree project for one of the researchers in zoology at Zoologen. We worked quite well together, so when a doctoral studentship with him was advertised, I applied. And his research was on bats!

Bats are special in that they have a sense – echolocation – that we don’t fully understand. They can move around at night, when we humans are more or less helpless.

I’ve just published my book Mörkermanifestet (The Darkness Manifesto) which is all about artificial light and its impact. When I discovered that bats are affected so much by floodlighting on churches, I wondered what the situation was for other animals. So I began thinking about this and it ultimately led to a book about darkness. Personally, I like nightfall.

I consider light pollution to be a major and growing problem. We could just turn it all off, but I guess we don’t want to. So it’s vital we find a middle way.

The aspect of my studies that I’ve made the most use of is writing. All those papers and articles that I wrote as a doctoral student. Expressing yourself in writing. Another thing is giving lectures and being able to talk about your own research. These are very valuable assets to take away with you. I’ve come to realise that the courses that required us to present a lot were very instructive.

I also write children’s books – so far one about bats and one on evolution. Kids are naturally interested in science. I think about it sometimes: the way that people laugh a bit at the science questions in TV quiz shows for example, that it’s sort of advanced stuff. That’s always surprised me because science isn’t harder than anything else. I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s an attitude that it should be hard.

It’s one of the reasons why I write – making science easily accessible a bit less egghead.”

Johan Eklöf

Age: 47.

Lives in: Bollebygd.

Education: Postgraduate education in zoology from The University of Gothenburg.

What do you do in your spare time? "It varies a bit. We own a summer cottage that we’re planning to convert into a house. If I just want to kick back at home then I open GarageBand on my iPad and make some music – synth-pop. It’s purely for fun – I don’t have any ambitions."