A Letter of Introduction
by Peter Youngbaer
NSS Liaison on White Nose Syndrome

April 17, 2008

Dear NSS Members,

We are pleased to offer this special page for information on the phenomenon known as White Nose Syndrome that has affected thousands of bats in the northeast. The purpose of the Liaison is to act as a bridge between the NSS membership and the scientists and agency personnel working on WNS.

With over 16 pages of comments on the NSS forum, its clear that many cavers have questions, comments, and suggestions about what is happening with the bats, with cave closures, and with the research. This is all most welcome.

However, the number of cavers and public, for that matter with questions, overwhelms the small number of scientists and agency biologists working on WNS. Similarly, these researchers have had no cogent way to get the results of their work back out to the rest of us. We hope this page will serve to provide a clearinghouse for organized, accurate, and timely communication.

The initial posting of this web page includes two important work products of the Liaison. First is a PowerPoint slide show on White Nose Syndrome. Much credit goes to Al Hicks, biologist with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation for an earlier version, and to people like Mike Warner, NSS and Northeastern Cave Conservancy; Susi von Oettingen, US Fish & Wildlife Service; and Jim Kennedy, Bat Conservation International, among others, for the updates necessary for this first public posting.

Second is a Media Digest. We have attempted to give a complete, chronological, and non-duplicative posting of news coverage. Stories were chosen to reveal the evolution of the research, and as much hard information about the researchers and the bats as possible. The digest includes audio and video clips, as well as newspaper stories.

The page also offers important links. We do not wish to be redundant, and we do want to acknowledge the good work of others who are providing unique web postings and additional information for those who wish to dig deeper.

In the works for this page is a caver-oriented Q & A. Like the slide show, we plan to update it as warranted. We hope you will check this page periodically for updates.

We also plan to post opportunities for cavers to get involved in the research and field work. Here in the northeast, bats are beginning to emerge from hibernation, and the research is shifting to emergence surveys (weighing the bats). Summer and fall will bring other opportunities, especially as bats prepare to hibernate again.

Perhaps of most immediate interest is the status of the closed NSS Preserves. When the NSS Board of Governors asked me to take on the Liaison duties, they asked me for a recommendation on the closure status before the end of April. That is a responsibility that I take very seriously.

As an active caver, I have been to many of the affected sites, am in constant contact with the state and federal agencies, have spoken to researchers, cavers, and all the Preserve managers. While my recommendation will be just that -- a recommendation, I expect the NSS will take it seriously, and have adequate justification for communicating whatever actions they take.

White Nose Syndrome is a very serious issue. It is likely to kill two hundred thousand to five hundred thousand bats at known affected sites this year. There is so much not yet known, and science takes time and resources. We hope that it will stay contained in the northeast, and that we will soon be able to understand what is occurring and why.

The NSS is committed to conservation and caving, and the WNS issue challenges all of us to do our best to balance those interests. In the long run, our sport and our science will benefit.

Peter Youngbaer
NSS 16161