Fungus serious threat to NE bats

Posted by Peter Youngbaer, Oct 31, 2008 11:07 am

Dear Caving Community,

The biggest news coming out of last week's North American Symposium on Bat Research (NASBR) (see Media Accounts) is the publication in Science of the research finding by David Blehert et al on the fungal isolate of geomyces spp. Here is the press release from the US Geological Survey and also a link to the research:
and then open the pdf Supporting Online Material. This supporting material is extremely informative.

The fungus isolate discovery lead was initially reported at the Albany WNS conference, but was just published this week.

It is crucial to note - despite the various media headlines - that Blehert, et al are NOT saying this is the cause of WNS. More research is needed to prove that. However, there is a strong correlation between where WNS has occurred and evidence of this particular fungus. Whether it is a causal agent, or a secondary condition is still not known, but it is clearly the strongest lead to date, although clearly still not the only one.

When I spoke with Dave Blehert and others last week at the conference, one extremely important piece of follow up field work will be to organize the caving community to assist in collecting organic material from sites all over the eastern US. This will inform scientists, fish and wildlife managers, and cavers as to the background prevelance of the fungus, and thus the potential for the spread of WNS over a much wider geographic region. How this will be organized is currently under discussion. This will be an excellent opportunity for many cavers to help in this investigation, but will need a lot of logistical organization to ensure the consistency of collection techniques, sample integrity, and reporting. Your assistance is needed and requested. Please stay tuned for news about this.

Direct testing of fungicides on this species for decontaminating clothing and gear of researchers and cavers is also a high priority. This underscores the continued need for cleaning and decontaminating gear and clothing.

A more detailed in-depth report of all the WNS research presented at NASBR is being prepared for posting on the NSS WNS Liaison website next week. Thank you for your patience.

Peter Youngbaer
NSS Liaison on WNS