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Award Honors Research Partnership Seeking to Help Bats Survive Deadly Disease

A research partnership led by the USDA Forest Service that is identifying ways that habitat management can help bats become more resilient to White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is the recipient of  the agency`s Wings Across the Americas research partnership award. Photo by Brian Heeringa, USDA Forest Service Newtown Square, PA, March 17, 2016 - An innovative team of scientists led by the USDA Forest Service was honored on Wednesday for research that is seeking to improve bats’ odds of surviving White-nose Syndrome by investigating their migratory patterns, habitat use and ability to fight the disease itself. 

USDA Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell presided over the 2016 Wings Across the Americas Conservation Awards ceremony, which was held as part of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Pittsburgh, Pa., and honored outstanding work in the conservation of birds, bats, butterflies and dragonflies. Tidwell presented the research partnership award to a team that includes researchers from the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Forest Products Laboratory as well as State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry, state natural resource agencies in Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, and three national forests. The partnership takes a holistic approach to studying the effects of WNS and aims to find ways to help bats cope with the disease, from studying whether microbes on their wings are helping build immunity to WNS to identifying where land managers might improve habitat so migrating bats are healthier and more resilient to the disease.

“White-nose Syndrome is as complicated as it is devastating,” said Deahn Donner, principle investigator for the partnership and a project leader/landscape ecologist with the Northern Research Station in Rhinelander, Wis. “It is a problem that has to be attacked from many angles and on many scales.”

The study plan for “Multi-scale Landscape Approach for Studying the Secondary Effects of White-nose Syndrome in Bats of the Upper Midwest” was developed by Donner with co-principle investigators Paula Marquardt, a Northern Research Station population geneticist in Rhinelander, and Brian Heeringa, a wildlife biologist specializing in bats who splits his time between the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the Northern Research Station in Rhinelander.

“We accomplish more when we join forces, and this research team truly exemplifies the power of collaboration in science and conservation," said Tony Ferguson, Acting Director of the U.S. Forest Service's Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory.

The research partnership includes: Daniel Lindner, Jon Palmer and Michelle Jusino of the Forest Products Laboratory; Dan Eklund of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest; Tim Catton of the Superior National Forest; Kari Kirshbaum of the Chippewa National Forest; Jacquelyn Frair and Ben Prom of State University of New York (SUNY) College of Environmental Science and Forestry; J. Paul White and Jennifer Redell of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Bill Scullon of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Mike Scafini of the Pennsylvania Game Commission; Alyssa Bennett of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department; and Carl Herzog of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Wings Across the Americas is sponsored by USDA Forest Service programs including the National Forest System, State & Private Forestry, Research & Development and International Programs. Wings Across the Americas works with a wide range of partners in the United States and overseas to conserve habitats and populations of birds, bats, butterflies, and dragonflies. Other awards honor conservation efforts connected to bats, butterflies and dragonflies. 

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The mission of the Forest Service's Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.

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Last modified: March 17, 2016