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NSS White-nose Syndrome Policy
B R E A K I N G N E W S
The winter and spring of 2013 were unremarkable in terms of unexpected developments regarding White Nose Syndrome (WNS) the disease responsible for killing large numbers of hibernating bats in the Eastern U.S. and Canada. States such as Tennessee and Kentucky and the Canadian province of New Brunswick – areas that had been identified as WNS-positive in the past – were frequently mentioned in the season's reports as many counties filled in as WNS saturated those locales. Colonies that had reported early onset of the disease saw large mortalities. The disease continued to spread on the front lines, with Georgia, South Carolina, and Prince Edward Island confirming this year. Scroll down to the latest map.
As of this writing, WNS has been confirmed in 22 states and 5 Canadian provinces. The disease has been confirmed in seven bat species, and the fungus Geomyces destructans has been detected on three other species. This latter statement is based on the US Fish and Wildlife WNS website, which lists the Virginia Big-eared bat has having been found to host the fungus. However, inquiries on my part have only gotten an email message from the USFWS telling me that a couple of labs have confirmed this in a conference call, but there has been no published report or press release anywhere. Thus, we have no link or citation to put on our NSS WNS website, consistent with our policy of only posting verifiable information. Importantly, the Virginia Big-eared bat remains unaffected by the disease – a notable situation as it co-habits hibernacula with other bats that have been heavily affected.
As discussed in our 2013 Winter Update, this year was the bi-annual Indiana bat survey. The results of that survey will be released this fall. How this data compares to the data from two years ago will be a significant indicator on the long-term viability of this species.
There has been little news on the research front, especially in terms of published scientific studies. Perhaps the most notable was the U.S. Forest Service's study of the fungus, reclassifying it as Pseudogymoascus destructans (P. destructans) vs. Geomyces destructans. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded $950,000 to 28 state wildlife agencies in June, but these are mostly monitoring and surveillance activities, covering some agency personnel time as opposed to major research grants. The Summer issue of Bat Conservation International's BATS news magazine featured an article on some promising research at Georgia State University, where a bacterium (Rhodococcus rhodochrous) has been found to inhibit the grown of the fungus. The study is a PhD candidate's thesis and is in press awaiting publication, so we have no link for you at this time.
This is not to say that there isn't research ongoing, it's just not published. One of the conferences I've attended for the past five years has been the North American Symposium on Bat Research (NASBR), typically held in late October. However, this year it's being held in August, in concert with the International Bat Research Conference (IBRC) in Costa Rica in August. Here is where primarily academic researchers and their students present their ongoing bat research. The abstracts for the Conference have been posted, and include some 43 papers related to WNS.
There was no annual WNS Symposium this spring, a victim of the federal budget sequester, so the opportunity to hear and share ongoing research and management issues with colleagues across the country has been delayed. A smaller, invitation-only event is now scheduled for September in Idaho. We hope the abstracts and/or proceedings will be posted on the USFWS website at some point. I expect many of the research topics will duplicate those presented at IBRC/NASBR.
Other victims of limited federal resources have been any update to the USFWS caving advisory, long out of date and unchanged since its initial publication. Similarly, each of the National Plan working groups was to have a prioritized list, with funding identified, that would make more real and focused the somewhat nebulous plans. Those have also not been forthcoming.
On the issue of cave closures or re-openings, two major developments took place over the past months. First is the re-opening of caves in the U.S. Forest Service Region 2 (Colorado and neighboring states). The Center for Biological Diversity appealed, but the USFS denied the appeal. Full details on the Region 2 decisions and process for cave visitation and reporting can be found here. Second is the open-ended continuation of cave closures in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The NSS, through the Virginia Region (VAR), has urged re-opening for the past year and was expecting a public input process over the past year that never materialized. We continue to work to offer the services of the organized caving community to assist in managing the cave resources within MNF consistent with the national Memorandum of Understanding between the NSS and the USFS. Stay tuned.
On a personal note, I am stepping down as the WNS Liaison for the NSS, effective next month at the NSS Convention. I'm doing this for personal reasons, but in communicating my resignation to the NSS I also believe we're at a turning point with WNS. The NSS initially stepped up to help co-sponsor the first WNS conference, to establish the Rapid Response Fund to help get research dollars out into the field as soon as possible, and more rapidly than state and federal government sources could, to act as managers of affected WNS sites in New York, and to help educated the media and public.
We're long past the “Rapid Response” and emergency measures time frame, and have been moving steadily toward a conservation focus over the past couple of years. Yes, we can still do our preventive part by ensuring that any gear used in WNS regions is not taken elsewhere, minimizing even the low risk of assisting in the transport of the disease. However, as bats will continue to be the primary disease spreaders, and we as yet have no way to stop that, efforts have been increasing to understand the survival dynamics of remaining bats. Protecting significant hibernacula, and especially avoiding cave visitation when bats are present and hibernating is something cavers knew long before WNS. We can redouble our efforts to educate the public about this and practice it ourselves.
In my communication to the NSS, I've suggested an outline for re-orienting the long-term WNS response and activities to reflect this changing environment. The NSS Board of Governors will be discussing and addressing this during their meetings at the Convention. I encourage you to let them know your thoughts.
In stepping down, I want to extend my personal respect and admiration to the many bat researchers I've met and worked with. These are incredible scientists who care deeply about the animals they study – and they're cool people, too! To the state and federal agency personnel who the public charges with protection of species, I thank you for your efforts, sometimes above and beyond the call of duty, and certainly beyond the bounds of government funding and bureaucratic constraints. I also want to thank the thousands of NSS members who have actively communicated with me and with your local and regional state and federal agencies and who, every day, help formally and informally with the discovery, study, management, and protection of bat and cave resources. I've learned so much from all of you, as I hope you have from me. I do truly believe that this has been a collaborative effort, with an extremely vibrant and lively discussion on science, management, conservation, and yes, even politics. I do believe most of us have insisted on science being the driving force behind our work, frustratingly slow as science sometimes is, and that we're the better for it.
I want to thank NSS Presidents Wm Shrewsbury and Gordon Birkhimer, and the entire Board of Governors for their policy, budget, legal, and spiritual support. WNS has been a challenge to the NSS – both its members and leadership – and I'm very appreciative of the support from all quarters.
Finally, I won't name names here, but I've been blessed with an extremely dedicated core of WNS Ad Hoc Liaison Committee members for these many years who have helped vet policy, publicity, publications, keep the website current (and functioning), research, management, government relations, outreach and education, and local and regional networking across the country, and much, much more. You know who you are. The NSS has been well-served by your efforts, and I trust you will continue to be involved. Thank you all.
WNS RESEARCH CENTER
EDUCATION & OUTREACH
Help us continue to fund priority, time-sensitive research
Grant application guidelines, review & award process
Abstracts (WNS-related) of the 2013 North American Symposium on Bat Research and International Bat Research Conference, San Jose, Costa Rica, August 11-15, 2013
Abstracts of the North American Symposium
Special WNS Session at the 2011 NSS Convention, Glenwood Springs, Colorado July 20, 2011, links to complete presentations
Summary of the 2011 WNS Symposium, May 17-19, 2011 By Peter Youngbaer
Abstracts from the Pittsburgh WNS Symposium
Second WNS Science Strategy Conference Proceedings Austin TX, May 27-28, 2009
Albany WNS Science Strategy Conference Proceedings June 2008. Includes the WNS research priorities for 2008-2009 that were developed as a result of this meeting.
Improved Analysis of Long-Term Monitoring Data Demonstrates Marked
Regional Declines of Bat Populations in the Eastern United States
Evaluation of strategies for the decontamination of equipment for Geomyces destructans, the causative agent of WNS, Shelley, at al; Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v. 75, no. 1.
A world review of fungi, yeasts, and slime molds in caves, Vanderwolf, et al; International Journal of Speleology, January 2013.
Distribution and Persistence of the Causative Agent of White-Nose Syndrome, Geomyces destructans, in Bat Hibernacula of the Eastern United States (Lorch, et al; Applied Environmental Microbiology, 14 December 2012)
Pathology in euthermic bats with white nose syndrome suggests a natural manifestation of immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (Metayer, et al; Virulence, Nov. 15, 2012)
WNS Surveillance and Monitoring Report
Bats' Social Behavior Alters WNS Effects
Histopathology Confirms White-Nose Syndrome in Bats in Europe (Pikula, et al; Journal of Wildlife Diseases, Vol. 48, No. 1, Jan. 2012)
Inoculation of bats with European Geomyces destructans supports the novel pathogen hypothesis for the origin of white-nose syndrome (Warnecke, et al; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, April 9, 2012)
NYDEC Reports Bat Population Rebounds in Original WNS Caves (NYDEC 2012 Winter Bat Survey Reports)
Little Brown Myotis Persist Despite Exposure to WNS
Geographical and Geological Data From Caves and Mines Infected With White-Nose Syndrome (Wns) Before September 2009 in the Eastern United States (Swezey, Garrity; NSS JCKS, Dec. 2011)
Specific Alterations in Complement Protein Activity of Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus) Hibernating in WNS Affected Sites (Moore, et al; PLoS One, Nov 2011)
Geomyces destructans determined to cause WNS; bat to bat transmission proven (Lorch, et al; Nature on line, October 26, 2011)
(D. Lindner, et al, Mycologia 103(2) 2011, pp. 241-246, 10 March 2011)
Clonal Genotype of Geomyces destructans among Bats with White-nose Syndrome, New York, U.S.A. (S.S. Rajkumar, et al, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vol. 17, No. 7, July 2011)
Pan-European Distribution of White-nose Syndrome Fungus Not Associated with Mass Mortality (April 27, 2011; PloS one;
Sebastian Puechemaille et al)
Ecosystem Services Provided by Bats (Annals of the
Wing pathology of WNS in bats suggests life-threatening disruption of physiology (BMC Biology, Nov. 11, 2010)
Tennessee WNS Monitoring Repor (7/19/10)
One Stop Chart of WNS Past and Current Research Projects (Thanks to USFWS)
New Published Research on Geomyces Destructans (posted 6/6/10)
Timing on Demography Little Brown Bats and Implications of WNS on Species Viability British Journal of Animal Ecology, 2009
Scientists' letter of concern to USFWS (11/24/09)
Sterling Rope and Webbing Decon and Stress Results
Special WNS Session at the International Congress of Speleology/NSS Convention
Special Report: WNS Scientific Research Summary and Status
Published Research on WNS-related Fungus
Wing Damage Index for Assessing WNS-Affected Bat
WNS fungus named: Geomyces destructans
WNS webinar from National Institute for
Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS)
Histopathologic criteria to confirm White-nose Syndrome in bats
Rapid PCR Diagnosis of WNS in Bats (Journal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation)
NSS WNS Information Brochure - Please print and distribute to youth groups, landowners, show cave owners, cavers and others who should know about WNS. (Updated version as of 9/17/13)
NSS/WNS Table Top Display
The National Speleological Society and White-nose Syndrome - A brief paper describing the NSS, its history and expertise in cave conservation, and its leadership and involvement with WNS.
NSS News Feature Articles:
"White Nose Syndrome: Pathology, Epidemi-ology, Diagnostics & Management" - 13 Oct 2012
WNS Webinar Presentation by Peter Youngbaer, NSS WNS Liaison - USGS, San Francisco (9/28/2010)
USFWS WNS webinar presentations
A Story Map of WNS - by Bern Szukalski, with assistance from the PGC and BCI (12/12/12)
USFS WNS Brochure now online - designed by our own Cheryl Jones and Mike Dale. Updated July 2013.
USFS Interagency Team Mobilizing to Tackle WNS - Caver contributions acknowledged.
WNS Classroom Education Poster (from Virginia)
Abandoned Mines and Bats Video (Produced by Motionarc Studios for Science North, 2012)
The Battle for Bats! - WNS video -- Share it widely!
Battle for Bats: Surviving WNS (10/15/13)
National Park Service WNS Videos (2/11/13)
NPS WNS Video - Great Smoky Mountains NP
2009 House Congressional Hearing on WNS - Includes links to NSS and all other testimony, video, photos.
2009 Senate Hearing on WNS - Includes photos, testimony, and complete video transcript.
2011 WNS Advocacy in Congress - Details of the 2011 WNS research budget testimony, prepared by a coalition including the NSS, and presented by BCI.
BCI Map of WNS outbreaks and all known hibernacula
Fungi and Emerging Infectious Disease: Bat White-nose Syndrome
Fungal Disease and the Developing Story of WNS
OTHER WNS LINKS
|Click map for larger view
Photo credits: Top photo: Nancy Heaslip, NYDEC; "Species of Concern," NSS Print Salon HM by Jansen Cardy; WNS Occurance Map by Cal Butchkoski.
WNS Liaison Report to the President/BOG
NSS Response to CBD Petitions (2/25/10)
USFWS WNS Web site
Bat Conservation International
Bat Conservation and Management WNS Page
DC Grotto WNS Page
Virginia Cave Board and DCR Karst Office (9/15/09)