Bat Conservation International (BCI) and the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are pleased to award $100,000 in funding to support critical research in the fight against White-nose Syndrome (WNS). Together, BCI and TNC reviewed and selected three solution-oriented projects that aim to identify and develop tools to improve survival of bats vulnerable to WNS.
BCI and TNC have chosen to provide critical funding to research projects that are developing approaches to manage the fungus that causes WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd). “We need to have many different tools in our tool box,” says BCI’s Imperiled Species Director Katie Gillies. “With the recent jump of WNS to Washington State, more than 1300 miles from the nearest confirmation of the disease in the east, it is important now more than ever to have a range of tools in our arsenal against the fungus. There isn’t likely to be a single silver bullet as WNS is affecting several species across a broad geographic area. Developing a suite of tools is likely to be more effective than putting all our eggs in one basket.”
The three newly funded projects take very different approaches to managing the fungus that causes WNS. The first project, proposed by Dr. Jeff Foster at New Hampshire University, seeks to reduce fungal load in infected human-made bat hibernation sites (such as mines) by using an environmental cleaning agent, chlorine dioxide. This compound is already widely used to sanitize fruits, eggs and drinking water. By reducing the amount of Pd in infected mines, this research aims to decrease the number of bats developing WNS in areas where the fungus is already present. The second project, proposed by Dr. Maarten Vonhoff at Western Michigan University, will field test the efficacy of using chitosan – a natural biopolymer – to treat bats in the wild and increase the survival of bats exposed to Pd. The final project, proposed by Dr. Craig Willis at the University of Winnipeg in Canada, will test the safety and efficacy of two anti-microbial and enzyme inhibitor treatments for WNS. If these tests are successful, these treatments would provide new tools to help bats survive exposure to the deadly fungus. Each of these research projects brings us closer to building a suite of tools in our toolbox to fight WNS.
White-nose Syndrome is a devastating disease that has killed more than six million bats in North America since its arrival in 2006. The disease is confirmed in seven different species of bats and is in 29 states and five Canadian provinces. The research support program funded by BCI and TNC to fight WNS is now in its third year of awarding grants. You can help support critical WNS research by donating to BCI’s WNS Response Program at http://www.batcon.org/wns_d