Exploring Resistance to White-Nose Syndrome in Bat Population of the Northern Forest

Project Title: 

Exploring Resistance to White-Nose Syndrome in Bat Population of the Northern Forest

Award Year: 
2014
Paula Marquardt
USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, WI
Co-Principal Investigator(s):
Leah Berkman
SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry
Deahn Donner
USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, WI
Jacqueline Frair
SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry
Daniel Lindner
USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, WI

Bat populations in the northeastern states are currently facing precipitous declines and the threat of regional and total extinction due to a disease called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). Their loss from Northern Forest landscapes will result in a significant decrease in mammal biodiversity and a potentially drastic decline in forest insect pest control. Documentation of bat populations that are stabilizing and individual bats that are surviving persistent exposure suggest there may be some genetic resistance to WNS.

Additionally, encouraging results from probiotic studies suggests the naturally occurring microbes resident on the bats’ skin (microbiome) may contribute to this resistance. How bat genetics and microbiome may be influenced by their environment, how they interrelate, and what their combined effect may be on bats’ susceptibility to WNS is largely unknown.

This relationship and, more importantly, where resistant populations may occur are of considerable value to the management of bat species and populations in the northeastern states. If resistant bat populations can be protected from further threats, they may prevail, and their role in forest ecosystems will remain intact. NSRC researchers will investigate where and why resistant bat populations occur. They will isolate potentially disease resistant genotypes and better understand relationships among microbiome, bat genotype, and resistance to WNS.