White-nose Syndrome may be the most severe threat ever faced by North American bats, and scientists have not yet identified its cause. Bat Conservation International has launched a special fund to quickly provide start-up money for research projects that are directly relevant to finding the cause or causes of White-nose Syndrome.
Reported among hibernating bats in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and possibly Pennsylvania, WNS has killed up to 90 percent of affected populations at some sites. Whole species may be at risk.
Scientists and officials from government, academia and wildlife groups met in Albany, New York, June 9-11, to identify the most urgent and promising directions for research into solving this tragic puzzle that is causing unprecedented bat mortality. Most participants suspect that a combination of factors may be involved in these massive die-offs.
The Science Strategy Session concluded that immediate research should attack these three top-priority questions:
• Why are affected bats starving?
• Are pathogens a direct cause of mortality?
• Are contaminants threatening either the bats or their food supply?
The emergency meeting was organized by Bat Conservation International, Boston University, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Geological Survey, in close collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was partly underwritten by BCI.
BCI’s new White-nose Syndrome Emergency Response Fund is designed to speed targeted research on this critical problem. The fund will award seed grants of $2,000 to $5,000 each so scientists can begin their research while larger grant applications are being considered or processed.
Applications must be directly relevant to identifying the cause or causes of White-nose Syndrome and will be reviewed by a panel of outside scientists. Information and the online application are available at: www.batcon.org/bcigrants/wnsintro.asp
BCI already has awarded two WNS grants. Missouri State University is studying possible metabolic abnormalities in hibernating bats, while Cornell and Boston Universities are jointly exploring whether bats’ immune systems are weakened during hibernation.
Your support can help prevent a catastrophic loss of bats that would cause irreparable damage throughout the environment. Give through the White-nose Syndrome Emergency Response Fund. Visit www.batcon.org/whitenose.