Fall Update
September 29, 2009

Dear NSS Members,

With bats not in hibernation during the summer, WNS efforts have focused on developing science and management strategies, pursuing research funding, and performing summer maternity colony and acoustical monitoring surveys. 

In the northeast, where WNS has ravaged bat populations for three winters, reports came in of devastated maternity colonies and almost no signs of affected species in the night skies or in mist nets.  In Peterborough, NH, a sixteen-year longitudinal study of Myotis lucifugus (little brown bats) came to an end after the entire bat population disappeared.  In Strafford, VT, an annual mist net survey that normally captured 900 bats caught 1 (one).  The NY acoustical monitoring project found so few bats of hibernating species that NYDEC is planning to file to add the Little Brown Bat and others on the state’s Endangered Species List.

As I mentioned, the summer has been full of planning for WNS.  In May, I participated in the Second Science Strategy Conference in Austin, Texas, a follow-up to last year’s meeting in Albany, NY.  The full proceedings spell out WNS research priorities for the coming year. 

In June, I had the honor of representing the NSS before Congressas part of a four-person expert panel testifying for a national focus and increased research funding for WNS.  As I write this update, Congress is still deliberating the Interior Appropriations bill.  The Senate currently has added $500,000 to the 2010 federal budget, and we’re hoping for an increase in the conference committee with the House.  Please respond quickly and strongly if we send an alert for you to contact your Representatives.  It does make a difference.

Later in June, the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS), at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, invited 35 of us – NGOs, wildlife managers, and scientists – including mathematicians and epidemiologists for the first time – to bring mathematical modeling and infectious disease perspectives to predicting the progress of WNS. We provide two links for you:  a Pre-Workshop Webinar Presentations and the Post Workshop Summary Report.

In July, the 15th International Congress of Speleology/NSS Convention in Kerrville, Texas hosted a Special ICS Session on WNS. Many of the leading scientists, federal, state, and NGO individuals working on WNS made presentations, and we have them all for you.

July 31st was the application deadline for $800,000 of USFWS funding for WNS research.  They received over $5 million in proposals – a sign of how lacking federal funding has been for investigating and combating WNS.  Originally set for an early September announcement, awards have now been delayed until the end of October.

Thanks to your generous donations, the NSS WNS Rapid Response Fund has grown, and we’ve made two new awards.  Read all the WNS grant details hereFrom one of our funded projects, Dr. Hazel Barton released the first WNS Rope and Webbing test results.

Finally, after a series of meetings and an August conference in Pittsburgh, PA (proceedings not yet available), the US Fish and Wildlife Service has just issued a USFWS Draft National WNS Plan. Public comment is supposed to occur later this year, and while the title says draft, this document will become the focus of most WNS activities.  Please study this document carefully.  We hope it will lead to effectively combating WNS and the return to normal for bat populations and caving.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions regarding WNS via e-mail at wnsliaison@caves.org.


Peter Youngbaer, NSS 16161
NSS WNS Liaison