Midsummer Update
August 1, 2008

Dear NSS Members,

The effects of White Nose Syndrome continue to be seen in bats in the Northeast even in summer. It is two weeks until the 2008 NSS Convention and seven weeks since the Science Strategy Conference on White Nose Syndrome a good time for a mid-summer update.

A detailed report on our first four months of activities was sent July 12 to the NSS Board of Governors through NSS President, Bill Tozer. It is included in his Presidents Report, which will be discussed at the BOG meeting at the Florida Convention.

In the interim, we have had numerous communications with some of the key laboratory and field researchers, and several news stories have covered some of the summer developments. While the formal proceedings and workplan from the June Albany, NY Science Strategy Conference have not yet been published, we will post them as soon as we have them.

In terms of whats happening with the bats, something noticed at spring emergence has continued over the summer surviving bats showing significant wing damage tears, scars, holes, and dehydration. One immediate work product of the Albany WNS conference in June was the development of a field grading system for this wing damage. It provides graphic evidence of the residual effects of WNS.

Further, the hope that surviving bats would return to good health once they found enough insects to eat, has proven wrong. Vermont Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Scott Darling says the state is still getting reports of bats dying on front lawns and hanging to screen windows. USFWS Susi von Oettingen is getting reports of dead and dying little brown bats in all four states with confirmed WNS, plus New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and a higher than usual number of pups falling and dying.

At the June Albany conference, scientists concluded that immediate research should attack three top-priority questions concerning the cause of White-nose Syndrome:

Most participants suspect that a combination of factors may be involved.

Unfortunately, a huge barrier to progress is that there simply is no targeted funding to date for WNS research. Most laboratories and state and federal agencies have piggybacked WNS work on already-existing projects. Bat Conservation International has provided some small grants, but major sources are lacking. Grants are being pursued, but there is no commitment from anywhere for sustained research. Typical federal funding sources have previously established priorities, and arent likely to be available for at least another year.

To help address the critical and immediate need for fall swarming studies and winter hibernacula studies, we have proposed to the NSS Board of Governors and the National Speleological Foundation that a fund be established, initial funding granted, and funding solicited from the caving community and general public to get needed monies out in the field by late summer. We have a couple of proposals in hand (from Dr. Tom Kunz and others), and this is something we can accomplish.

Speaking as one who sees the field situation in our caves and mines up close, it is absolutely critical that we understand the condition of bats going into hibernation this fall. Being able to establish the cause of WNS sooner, rather than later, will help return bats to health, restore populations, prevent the spread to other regions, and help keep caves open for exploration and study.

We hope you will speak to members of the NSS Board of Governors and Trustees of the NSF in support of action at the upcoming Convention meetings, and will contribute to any fund established for this purpose.

Peter Youngbaer
NSS 16161