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

Science Center Objects

Bat Research

Research collaboration: Winifred Frick (Bat Conservation International), Brian Reichert (FORT), Theodore Weller (US Forest Service), Wayne Thogmartin (UMESC) and the North American Bat Colony Count Consortium

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.

This project leverages existing efforts to collect data on bat populations and integrates directly with the NABat monitoring program and WNS national response. Improved data-sharing tools and a queryable database can improve management response to WNS by 1) providing specific guidance on where, when, and how to conduct effective surveillance for Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) particularly at the disease frontier and in western regions; 2) identifying species and regions most vulnerable to WNS impacts at range-wide scales, and 3) assessing and predicting vulnerability and potential recovery of species across North America. As WNS has grown from a regional disease impacting several species to a truly continental epidemic with potential to impact all hibernating species of bats in North America, the need for a comprehensive database and continental-scale analysis of impacts as well as data-driven models to assess vulnerabilities and guide management and response is urgently needed. Our project delivers these tools to improve conservation outcomes and the efficiency by which they can be achieved.


Healthy hibernating little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)

Healthy hibernating little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus)

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