Are you curious about bats, the important role bats play in keeping ecosystems healthy, the increasing threats bats are facing across the continent? Friends of the Lardeau River is delighted that DR. CORI L. LAUSEN will be our December Speaker Series presenter.
THURSDAY DECEMBER 6, 7PM
Preparing B.C. Bats For The Arrival Of White Nose Syndrome: A Comprehensive Conservation Approach.
Cori L. Lausen,
Wildlife Conservation Society Canada,
PO Box 606, Kaslo, BC V0G 1M0
As the primary consumers of night-time insects, including forest and agricultural pests, bats play an important role in keeping ecosystems healthy. Bats face increasing threats with unprecedented declines across the continent. Most urgent is white-nose syndrome (WNS), an invasive and deadly fungal disease that has killed millions of bats since its discovery in 2006 in New York State. It has subsequently spread across eastern North America into 7 provinces, as far west as Manitoba. In 2016 it made an unexpected leap to Washington State, and now threatens B.C. bats. Wildlife Conservation Society Canada (WCSC) is dedicated to bat conservation in western Canada, and our comprehensive program addresses 3 levels of preparation for the arrival of this disease: obtaining baseline data, assessing risk, and developing and evaluating mitigation tools.
Baseline data are needed to determine current diversity, range and abundance information prior to the arrival of the disease. Such data include locating where bats hibernate in winter, the season during which bats succumb to WNS (WCSC’s BatCaver.org program), and monitoring various habitats across the province to determine what species are found where and in what relative abundance so that impacts of the disease can be measured (North American Bat Monitoring program). Baseline data will also inform future recovery strategies, which is critical for this group of mammals for which very basic ecological information is still lacking.
WNS is unlikely to affect all western bat species equally. While the extreme negative impact of WNS on many eastern bats has been documented, in B.C. we are uncertain which species are most vulnerable to the disease and would thus be most in need of limited resources. B.C. has approximately 16 species of bats, more than double the number found in eastern Canada. How most of these species will fare in the face of WNS, is not yet known. As such, through international collaborations, we are developing survivorship models that predict which bat species are likely to experience the highest mortality rates from WNS, taking into consideration latitude, winter length, hibernation conditions, and bat physiology.
Concurrent to the above activities, WCSC has teamed up with Thompson Rivers University, McMaster University, UBC Okanagan, the BC provincial government, and BC Wildlife Park to develop, test and eventually implement a new potential prophylaxis application for reducing the severity and spread of WNS. This is through development of a naturally occurring probiotic that can positively alter the wing microbiome of bats to more effectively fight off WNS infection. A prototype probiotic cocktail has been developed that contains bacteria found on some B.C. bats that inhibit the growth of the WNS fungus. This approach is potentially self-propagating, can be delivered in summer, and is more realistic than any other proposed WNS treatments for western bats to date. And there are other mitigation strategies including the promotion of habitat enhancement using such artificial structures such as bat boxes. One of our up-and-coming projects includes an assessment of bat boxes across North America to determine if bat reproduction is enhanced or hindered by these structures; the field work for this project will focus largely in the West Kootenay.
I will provide an overview of our bat conservation activities in the Columbia Basin in the context of our larger western Canada program.
Dr. Cori Lausen lives in Kaslo, and is a conservation research biologist. After completing her PhD in bat ecology, she worked as an independent bat biologist. During this time she initiated several research projects, setting the foundation for a western Canada bat conservation program which she continues to develop and expand as a full time associate research scientist with Wildlife Conservation Society Canada. She sits on a number of bat conservation committees including the North American Bat Conservation Alliance and played a key role in developing and implementing the North American Bat Monitoring Program. This presentation provides an overview of this larger bat conservation program and describes WCS Canada’s activities in the Columbia Basin in particular.