WNS Fall Update
October 1, 2008

Dear NSS Members,
The summer has been an extremely busy time for the Liaison Project.  The big news is that the NSS Board of Governors responded to our call for funding for critically timed research projects relating to White Nose Syndrome. We thank you all for your advocacy and support.

At the August 15 BOG meeting during the Florida Convention, a new WNS Rapid Response Fund (RRF) was created.  The NSS and the National Speleological Foundation both kicked in an initial $10,000 each, and many cavers and grottos have also contributed.  For information about the RRF, its purpose, and links to the NSS donation page and research application guidelines, click here.

With the rapidly approaching fall swarming season, it was essential that we get funding out in to the field as soon as possible.  Dr. Thomas Kunz, of Boston University, and others submitted a proposal for studying bats for pre-hibernation fat storage.  $14,000 was awarded on September 22.  To read the proposal, click here. The creation and presence of this fund has leveraged additional funding, enhancing the leadership role of the NSS in the WNS investigation.

In terms of summer field research, most of what occurred was in tandem with other bat research, such as telemetry studies or maternity colony observations.  Most significant was the prevalence of wing damage apparently suffered during last winter.  The field diagnostic and grading system, including graphic pictures, can be seen here.

In addition to Dr. Kunz research that focuses on how bats are entering hibernation, Dr. Dee Ann Reeder, of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, is coordinating with Greg Turner of the PA Game Commission and partners in several other states to study alterations in hibernation patterns of bats.
A direct outgrowth of the Albany Science Strategy Conference, this project will tag up to 600 bats in affected and unaffected sites (for comparison) in PA, NY, VT, MI, and KY, and possibly NH and WVA.  Temperature transmitters will monitor how bats move into and out of torpor.  The hypothesis being tested is that affected bats are arousing more frequently or for longer periods than normal, thus eating up precious fat reserves.

In addition, Dr. Reeder will place bats in a climate controlled bat chamber, some affected with WNS, others not, and study their arousal patterns in a laboratory-controlled environment.  For more details on this research, go to the Media Digest and read the Bucknell story.

These are two of the major research projects currently underway.  Northeastern cavers have also been assisting NYDEC’s Al Hicks with placing temporary gates on three mines to prevent bats from leaving this winter.  If bats die, the carcasses will be protected from scavengers and will permit examination.  At this point in time, we are not aware of work being done in the area of pesticides or other environmental toxins.  It may be out there, but we are not hearing or reading of it.

Regarding cave closures, as fall approached, we consulted with all the managers of the NSS Preserves that had been closed last winter in response to WNS, as well as state and federal wildlife officials.  With the confidence of knowledge gained in the interim, a more targeted and scientifically based closure has been announced this fall for Schoharie and Gage Caverns, while others remain open.  For the details, click here. We are not aware of any other new cave closures due to WNS, but, if you know if any, please let us know.

Finally, please take the opportunity to view the newly updated Power Point presentation created by Al Hicks and others here.  If you are new to the issue of White Nose Syndrome, this will give you a graphic presentation of the phenomenon’s discovery and evolution.

We appreciate all your feedback, suggestions, and contributions. Contact us at the e-mail address below.  Thank you.  

Peter Youngbaer
NSS 16161