Late Fall Update
December 1, 2008

Dear NSS Members,
There is good news and bad news on the White Nose Syndrome front, and a direct call for your immediate help for a critical research project.
The good news is that much is happening on the research front.  The bad news is that we are already seeing many bats in the northeast with the telltale White Nose fungus.
From Mt. Aeolus Bat Cave in Vermont, to mines and caves in NY, the sightings of the fungus this early in the hibernating season, on what look like otherwise healthy, decent-weight bats, is very troubling.
On the research front, over 400 bat researchers, state and federal wildlife officials, and others gathered late October in Scranton, PA, for the North American Symposium on Bat Research.  Thanks to partial assistance from the NSS, I was able to attend and meet and speak directly with most of the people directly involved in WNS research activities.
Saturday featured a morning-long plenary presentation on everything going on with White Nose Syndrome.  One breakthrough presentation was by Dr. David Blehert, of the National Wildlife Health Center, a division of the US Geological Survey, in Madison, Wisconsin.  This concerned the newly discovered Geomyces spp. research, which was published and made the national news a few days later.
While this discovery is extremely important, it has not been determined if the fungus is directly causing the bats to starve and die, or whether it is simply taking advantage of bats weakened by another source.  However, it has been isolated from bats at all sampled sites in the northeast.
Other presentations included an overview PowerPoint by Al Hicks, NYDEC, a description of research on viruses, parasites, or other possible pathogens by Dr. Beth Buckles, Cornell University, and one by Jeremy Coleman, of the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  Coleman described how the effort is being organized, including the final science strategy priorities from the June Albany, NY conference on WNS, and funding opportunities.As we reported in October, only one project to date has received any major funding directly focused on WNS – an important one being conducted by Dr. Dee Ann Reeder of Bucknell University, studying alterations in hibernation patterns of bats.
The NSS Rapid Response Fund has been a key component of what is happening. As we reported in October, our first grant went to Dr. Thomas Kunz of Boston University to help fund a fall swarming study to see if bats were going into hibernation healthy.  Many researchers approached me at the NASBR conference. Three of these projects met our criteria:

1. A project led by Dr. David Blehert, to test soil samples from allover the eastern US to ascertain the prevalence of the new fungus in the environment.  For this project, the NSS is an active partner, and we need your help;
2. To complete a study by Tom Tomasi and graduate student Amanda Janicki, of Missouri State University, on metabolic rates of hibernating bats and arousal patterns.  This is directly related to understanding why the bats are starving.
3. To study immune responses of hibernating bats. This follows preliminary work last winter by BU graduate student, Marianne Moore, working under Dr. Tom Kunz, that will compare bats in both affected and unaffected sites, including NSS-owned Gage Caverns, in NY, one of the original sites.  It will test hypotheses to see if hibernating bats are immunocompromised.

With these awards, the NSS will have raised and given out over $27,000 – a truly significant accomplishment.  Thank you to all who have given. Now, however, the Rapid Response Fund is virtually out of money.  We will certainly have more need for quick responses to research needs.  Please give now, if you can.
Finally, the NSS also signed on as a supporting partner to a large multi-state competitive grant application, known as the State Wildlife Grants.  This could potentially bring $300,000 to $1,000,000 to provide core, ongoing funding to coordinated research, which will be vital.  Word should come in February.  Without it, many identified research priorities will not happen.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding WNS via e-mail at

Peter Youngbaer
NSS 16161