Science Center Objects

White-nose syndrome (WNS) caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) has decimated hibernating bat populations across North America since it emerged 10 years ago in New York. As Pd has spread across North America, infection dynamics and mortality from WNS have varied among species and across sites. The mechanisms behind vulnerability of species across the current and expanding range of Pd spread remain unclear. Quantifying spatial patterns of WNS impact and identifying environmental predictors of vulnerability of bat species to WNS will inform management response by recognizing geographic areas and species most at risk from WNS.

Tri-colored bat with visible WNS symptom

Tri-colored bat with visible WNS symptom

(Credit: Darwin Brack. Public domain.)

The North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat) is a continental-scale monitoring program for bat population trends involving a statistically robust framework and participation across multiple federal agencies (Loeb et al. 2015). The development and implementation of NABat was largely motivated by the need for standardized monitoring to evaluate the impacts of WNS. The goals of NABat are to provide managers and policy makers with the information they need on bat population status and trends to effectively manage bat populations, detect early warning signs of population declines, assess species vulnerability to potential threats including WNS, and measure recovery. NABat monitoring is now occurring in more than 39 states and 10 Canadian provinces. As monitoring efforts increase through time, NABat will provide regular reports on species status and trends, document changes in distributions, help focus conservation efforts, and monitor efficacy of conservation and adaptive management efforts.

Literature Cited

Loeb, S. C., T. J. Rodhouse, L. E. Ellison, C. L. Lausen, J. D. Reichard, K. M. Irvine, T. E. Ingersoll, J. T. H. Coleman, W. E. Thogmartin, J. R. Sauer, C. M. Francis, M. L. Bayless, T. R. Stanley, and D. H. Johnson. 2015. A plan for the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat). General Technical Report SRS-208. U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Asheville, North Carolina. 100 pp.

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Current projects

Healthy hibernating little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)

Healthy hibernating little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)

(Credit: Ann Froschauer, US Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain.)

Quantifying vulnerability of bat species to White-nose Syndrome across North America

We quantify vulnerability of bat species in North America to target and prioritize management actions toward species and habitats that are most at risk from impacts from White-nose Syndrome (WNS). A main objective of this project is to assemble and provide a continental-scale database of colony counts by creating data-sharing tools and agreements that will aid the WNS response community. The database is used to assess geographic patterns and ecological drivers of colony size, hibernation behavior, and habitat associations for North America’s hibernating bat species and for developing a model of species vulnerability across the current and expanding range of WNS. Data-driven models are used to predict regions and species most at risk to WNS to target management actions and surveillance efforts.

 

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Small Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) colony

Small Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) colony

(Credit: Shawn Thomas, National Park Service. Public domain.)

Developing online integrated data visualization tools for WNS and NABat

White-nose syndrome is caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), which has decimated hibernating bat populations across North America since it emerged 10 years ago in New York. While diagnostic tools for WNS have greatly improved, data from various diagnostic labs remain scattered among disparate archives and databases in several locations. Currently, reporting on outcomes of WNS disease diagnosis for public-facing visualization tools is limited to ‘positive’ and ‘suspect’ diagnostic criteria, and is subject to delays in reporting (https://www.whitenosesyndrome.org/).

 

 

 

 

 

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Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) in the Shipp Room, Hellhole cave

Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) in the Shipp Room, Hellhole cave

(Credit: Dave Riggs. Public domain.)

Modeling the response of cave hibernating Myotis species to white-nose syndrome mitigation tactics

White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease devastating cave-hibernating bat species (Myotis spp.) in the eastern United States. Several mitigation tactics have been proposed to alleviate the effects of white-nose syndrome on bats including probiotics and vaccination. Questions remain regarding how effective a treatment should be to result in population-level effects, and what proportion of a population would need to receive the treatment. For example, effective vaccination often relies on “herd immunity”- the concept that not all individuals need to receive treatment, but that a critical mass should be vaccinated to prevent the spread of disease in a population. In addition, bats can travel large distances between summer roosting habitat and overwintering hibernacula locations, making our ability to designate distinct “populations” for treatment difficult.

 

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Roosting northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis)

Roosting northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis)

(Credit: Dave Thomas. Public domain.)

Integrating colony counts with NABat acoustic data to reveal the true impacts of White-Nose Syndrome on northern long-eared bats

The northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) was listed as Threatened on the Endangered Species Act in 2014 due to rapid declines in numbers of observed hibernating bats at winter roosting sites after the arrival of white-nose syndrome. At 69% of known hibernacula in the eastern United States, northern long-eared bats disappeared entirely within four years. However, some evidence from summer surveys (including acoustic sampling) suggest that remnant populations of northern long-eared bats could be persisting in these regions.

 

 

 

 

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Tightly clustered roosting bats

Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) in the Shipp Room, Hellhole cave

(Credit: Alan Cressler. Public domain.)

A continental-scale study of acoustic phenology to improve population monitoring and inform management of hibernating bats

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) has caused severe declines in bat populations over the past 10 years and colony sizes at winter hibernacula have decreased on average by >90% for three species (Myotis septentrionalis, Myotis lucifugus, and Perimyotis subflavus). These three species are listed as endangered in Canada. In the United States, M. septentrionalis was listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2016 (https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2016-00617)) and M. lucifugus and P. subflavus have been petitioned for listing.  These species are a top priority for monitoring and management attention based on their severe declines at hibernacula and regulatory status. 

 

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Past projects

Population Demographic Models for the Conservation of Endangered Indiana Bats at Risk to White-Nose Syndrome