Artificial Test Cave

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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby PYoungbaer » Nov 17, 2010 10:43 pm

Here's a more detailed story about the artificial cave concept, including a design drawing. TNC in Tennessee is hoping folks will vote on a Pepsi website to gain funding for the project (link on the page for those so inclined).

http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/tennessee/features/art32792.html?src=news
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby wyandottecaver » Nov 18, 2010 10:22 am

I wonder how accurate that "depiction" is. While bats *might* eventually explore a tube (culvert?) sticking out of the ground, If I was building a bat cave I would have a large, easy to find, "cave like" opening downsloping (as a cold air trap) to a narrow entry to the roost where you could play with airflow and more easily gate it.(and block ground based predators) Having your cameras up on the roof (where presumably the bats will roost) doesnt make sense either. They need to be at ground level looking up. I also didn't see any provisions for drainage, and in such a small, shallow, "cave" airflow and outside conditions are gonna have a huge impact on temps.

Still its just a depiction so who knows how it will end up.
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby Grandpa Caver » Nov 18, 2010 6:56 pm

Assuming a successful artifical cave can be built, I do not see how it could be used as anything but a research facility. IMO bats would be so freely entering & exiting the site both pre and post season that maintaining a clean enviroment would be nearly impossible. Certainly not a "safe haven" given the little we know about treatment or prevention of WNS at this time.

I do believe however that an artifical cave could provide a valuable resource for knowledge and would be well worth the effort even if bats do have to be introduced to the site.
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby Batgirl » Nov 19, 2010 11:55 am

The project is not a safe haven. It is intended to be used as a research facility that would allow scientists to study the disease and potentially treat the animals without causing harm to the cave ecosystem. This is the first of its kind and warrants our support. The project was envisioned by Cory Holliday and designed with the help of Jim Kennedy of BCI. Construction will be completed by Formworks Building Inc (http://www.formworksbuilding.com/constr ... uence.html) and will be made of steel with Shockcrete, which is a textured, stonelike substance much like the limestone of Tennessee caves. The interior will have folds and cracks like a real cave that will allow the needed microclimates that bats require during hibernation. The interior room will be climate controlled and will measure approximately 30 x 40 feet. TNC believes that it could house as many as 30,000 - 40,000 bats at any one time. I have been told that the interior will consist of styrofoam panels that will allow cleaning to be easy. They are not planning on allowing bats to roost there year round. The climate control mechanisms can be done in a way that would either encourage or discourage its use without causing stress or harm to the bats.

While the location is still undecided, they are looking at the opportunity to place it next to Bellamy Cave in Montgomery County, TN. This cave is a year-round home to the endangered gray bat, and winter home to the endangered Indiana bat. This cave and approximately 35 acres is owned by TWRA and is one of the 3 most important gray bat caves in Tennessee.

Funding for this project is being proposed through a grant by the Pepsi Refresh Project. This is a competitive grant that requires votes to win. Today, the project is No. 83 of 100. They need our help to move this to the top. Please click here to vote (http://www.refresheverything.com/saveamericasbats). You can vote once a day. Please support this.

:bat sticker:
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby BrianC » Nov 19, 2010 12:08 pm

Without the natural environment of bacteriological agents produced from a natural ecosystem, there is high potential that infections kept in check naturally would mutate and would get out and infect other bats and species with worse outcomes than the original WNS. I can't see allowing this experiment being anything other than set in a controlled environment with no chance of escape for the participants. It would be illogical for any science to allow otherwise.


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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby Batgirl » Nov 19, 2010 12:23 pm

From everything I have read and every bat biologist I have spoken too, treating the fungus is possible, but there is no current way to treat the animals without risking the cave ecosystem. Right now, this is the best shot we've got. I spent the day yesterday attending the Annual TN Bat Working group meeting. In that room were many bat biologists and academics working on WNS. Every one was in support, including folks from BCI. If they think this is a project worth perusing, then I will support it.

Let me also add that there is precedent for this. It has and is still working today for mexican free tails.

http://www.bambergerranch.org/news/bats.phtml
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby BrianC » Nov 22, 2010 5:28 pm

Batgirl wrote:From everything I have read and every bat biologist I have spoken too, treating the fungus is possible, but there is no current way to treat the animals without risking the cave ecosystem. Right now, this is the best shot we've got. I spent the day yesterday attending the Annual TN Bat Working group meeting. In that room were many bat biologists and academics working on WNS. Every one was in support, including folks from BCI. If they think this is a project worth perusing, then I will support it.

Let me also add that there is precedent for this. It has and is still working today for mexican free tails.

http://www.bambergerranch.org/news/bats.phtml


The Mexican free tail, I believe hibernates in Mexico, and uses the man made cave for maternity only. In Tenn., the bats will be hibernating and spending much time daily all year. It is going to be tried either way, so we will certainly see what happens.
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby Dr_Beaner » Nov 27, 2010 1:54 pm

The idea of an artificial Tennessee bat cave to be used for research has potential to be a way to help with certain aspects of understanding WNS. However I have many issues with the rather foggy details on exactly how science proposes to use this facility for WNS. I wonder as well what other motivations may be behind this effort. The design sketches and visualizations of the structure show no provision for such basic needs as guano removal, monitoring equipment, or other important details needed in a facility proposed to study bats. Without a focused plan on what the structure is going to be used for, what scientific experiments will take place, what the goals of said experiments are, and what the risks are it is difficult to be enthused about such a grand scheme costing a quarter of a million dollars to build.

Getting a grant to build this is the easy part. One then has to plan, fund and execute the science that will make the entire project worthwhile. Time is of the essence. All of this must be done quickly else WNS will have taken too much of a toll on the bats. So far all I have seen is a simple basic plan based on getting Pepsi to fund it. I wonder if there are enough resources to adequately plan and execute the science quickly and efficiently enough to actually be of any help with WNS. This will not be easy to do regardless of the resources brought to bear.

Molly Matteson of the infamous Center for Biological Diversity (who argue for total cave closures due to WNS) has given her endorsement to this project.

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2010 ... sick-bats/

That in itself is enough to make me question the integrity of the project and the real motives behind it.

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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby BrianC » Nov 27, 2010 4:39 pm

Dr_Beaner wrote:The idea of an artificial Tennessee bat cave to be used for research has potential to be a way to help with certain aspects of understanding WNS. However I have many issues with the rather foggy details on exactly how science proposes to use this facility for WNS. I wonder as well what other motivations may be behind this effort. The design sketches and visualizations of the structure show no provision for such basic needs as guano removal, monitoring equipment, or other important details needed in a facility proposed to study bats. Without a focused plan on what the structure is going to be used for, what scientific experiments will take place, what the goals of said experiments are, and what the risks are it is difficult to be enthused about such a grand scheme costing a quarter of a million dollars to build.

Getting a grant to build this is the easy part. One then has to plan, fund and execute the science that will make the entire project worthwhile. Time is of the essence. All of this must be done quickly else WNS will have taken too much of a toll on the bats. So far all I have seen is a simple basic plan based on getting Pepsi to fund it. I wonder if there are enough resources to adequately plan and execute the science quickly and efficiently enough to actually be of any help with WNS. This will not be easy to do regardless of the resources brought to bear.

Molly Matteson of the infamous Center for Biological Diversity (who argue for total cave closures due to WNS) has given her endorsement to this project.

http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2010 ... sick-bats/

That in itself is enough to make me question the integrity of the project and the real motives behind it.


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Brian, you speak with real wisdom! :cave softly:
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby TNCave » Nov 29, 2010 10:51 am

Hi Guys,

Cory here from TNC. I just wanted to throw out a few things.

I strive to keep an open dialogue with everyone regarding my work, both supporters and critics. If you have questions about a TNC project or the scientific integrity of a project or policy, please don't hesitate to call or email me for more details or to discuss any aspect of TNC's cave related work. To create assumptions with no investigation is voluntary naivety in my estimation. Yes, the Pepsi website is scientifically vague, it is designed to give the most basic project information in a compact format. Pepsi purposely limits the amount of text we can put on the page, and that text is designed to attract votes, as without the funding, the details of the project are meaningless. So, yes, you are correct, the information on the Pepsi website is very basic project information designed to attract votes to fund our project. But you should know that TNC is a scientific organization and of course we have a complete plan that has been peer reviewed, even by some cavers who gave great input.

I would encourage anyone with questions about TNC projects or work to contact me at 615.504.7427 or cholliday@tnc.org.

Cory
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby BrianC » Nov 29, 2010 11:51 am

TNCave wrote: To create assumptions with no investigation is voluntary naivety in my estimation.


Cory, you are absolutely correct and I for one applaud this comment! The fact is, when assumptions with no investigations have occurred regarding WNS, caves have been closed and policies have been created. Doesn't this look hypocritical? If you read cavechat posts, you will see that many here have been assembling facts pointing to a very different reasoning to the spread of WNS. The obvious outcry has been that our government and regulatory sciences have bent and totally disregarded these facts. The test cave could very well be a life line to our bats, but from what has been shown by actions of our federal friends so far, I must realize that proper research didn't take place.

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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby Dr_Beaner » Nov 29, 2010 7:36 pm

TNCave wrote:Hi Guys,

Cory here from TNC. I just wanted to throw out a few things.

I strive to keep an open dialogue with everyone regarding my work, both supporters and critics. If you have questions about a TNC project or the scientific integrity of a project or policy, please don't hesitate to call or email me for more details or to discuss any aspect of TNC's cave related work. To create assumptions with no investigation is voluntary naivety in my estimation. Yes, the Pepsi website is scientifically vague, it is designed to give the most basic project information in a compact format. Pepsi purposely limits the amount of text we can put on the page, and that text is designed to attract votes, as without the funding, the details of the project are meaningless. So, yes, you are correct, the information on the Pepsi website is very basic project information designed to attract votes to fund our project. But you should know that TNC is a scientific organization and of course we have a complete plan that has been peer reviewed, even by some cavers who gave great input.

I would encourage anyone with questions about TNC projects or work to contact me at 615.504.7427 or cholliday@tnc.org.

Cory


OK Cory,

This forum is a great place to let us cavers know what sort of science will be done, what kind of funding is planned, and who will be doing it etc. As for "voluntary naivety" I have indeed looked at multiple online sites (TNC's included) for more info on this project and have not seen enough detail anywhere out there to convince me to change my opinion. If TNC etc has a great plan let us hear it! I doubt each of us has the time to call you or email you for details.

Thanks,
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby TNCave » Nov 30, 2010 11:43 am

Fair enough Brian,

I'll begin by answering the questions from your blog:

1. Is there any benefit for cavers and caving in Tennessee?
Not that I can think of, no. This is about the bats, not cavers, biologists, resource managers, or anyone else.

2. Have cavers and others thought to review the design details before blindly supporting this concept?
Some, yes. I've had great questions from skeptical cavers as the project details available on the internet are few.

3. Is building an artificial cave “preserving the natural environment” and if so how does this fall under the mission statement of TNC?
Part of TNC's mission is to preserve biodiversity, this is no different than artificially stimulating reefs for sea organisms, which TNC does in Florida and the Caribbean.
We see this artificial cave as sustaining organisms while the research catches up with WNS, it is not a solution to WNS.

4. How are healthy bats going to be introduced into the cave and where will they come from?
We do not plan to "introduce" healthy bats. We have built smaller artificial roosts for bats before, and they take an average of 1.5 years for occupancy. In this case, we will be building it next door to a major gray bat hibernacula which is a significant fall swarming site. We, and every bat expert we have consulted, believe that as long as we get the conditions right, the bats will use the artificial cave.

5. What effects will the artificial cave have on nearby natural caves concerning changes to their natural migration and hibernation activities or patterns?
Our attempt is to build this artificial cave very near an existing gray bat cave and match its climate, we anticipate no affects on the bats' life history strategies.

6. From the design details shown to date there is no method given for guano removal. How will guano etc be removed from this structure?
The floor of the structure is sealed concrete sloping to a large, long trough. When we clean the cave, guano, cleaning agents, etc. will all be contained in the trough then pumped out by a septic truck and carried off site for treatment.

7. Will bats be free to enter / exit the structure and if so how can they control WNS bat to bat transmission?
Bats will be free to enter/exit as they please. Bats will certainly be coming in with WNS and contaminating the cave, however, our goal is to keep the fungal loads similar to what we have seen in natural caves at first year infection sites, which as you know have little to no mortality. Basically, we can only keep the environmental fungal loads down, which in natural caves has not shown the high mortality associated with WNS.

8. Will the structure be used to prove / disprove human to bat transmission of WNS?
No. Our structure is simply an experimental artificial cave to attempt to save a good number of gray bats from one hibernacula, and to offer a location for WNS control research.

9. Can bats be introduced in time to be beneficial to WNS prevention or cure?
Absolutely. Although WNS is becoming widespread in the east, it could still move throughout the west and to Mexico's mountainous regions with hibernating bats. We should have several years still in the east to save bats if we identify a control method.

10. Who will be in charge of the science being done in this artificial environment on government property?
Good question, although broad, science can cover a lot of ground. If the structure is built on state property, TWRA will have project oversight, but TNC will be responsible for the construction details and ensuring the micro-climates are correct. Initially, TNC will be responsible for monitoring things like Temp, Rh, bat movements, etc., but we will be enlisting academia for further research.

11. Where will funds for meaningful scientific research come from once Pepsi donates a quarter million dollars to build it?
The $250K is enough to build the cave and incorporate monitoring equipment such as Temp/Rh loggers, web ready thermal cameras, a beam break system, etc. We will be engaging university partners for WNS control research, and they will secure their own funding.

12. Are there any local universities, labs, conservancies, government employees, scientists etc that stand to benefit from this project?
Again, this is about the bats, not people. The only way I can think this could be seen as benefiting people is offering some research universities a place to do research where none existed before. Neither bats or troglobitic invertebrates do well in laboratories, and WNS control research cannot be done in a natural cave, but this facility has the potential to mimic a natural cave without the danger of negatively impacting a natural ecosystem or groundwater.

13. Can smaller scale tightly focused research projects be more efficient, be done more quickly, and be more precisely controlled than this inadequately planned grand scheme?
This one is half question, half opinion. Smaller scale hibernacula could be built cheaper and faster, but for our target species: gray bats, they would have little effect. Gray bats hibernate in large numbers and in few caves. We feel that WNS has the potential to extirpate millions of gray bats in a very short period of time, as over 95% of the entire known population hibernate in just nine caves.

I would like to add that this project is experimental. We offer no guarantee that it will be successful, however we are taking every step we can in an attempt to create a suitable artificial hibernacula. We are still in the development phase of the project and are still consulting experts from around the world to ensure that we build the cave to the best of our abilities. This project has been peer reviewed by both bat and cave experts, does not use gov't funds, does not hold bats captive, and as far as I can see has no negative effects for cavers. I do not see this project or myself for that matter at odds with cavers.

Many cavers I have spoken with in the past two years have indicated an us vs. them mentality surrounding all aspects of WNS. I do not buy into this concept and do not approach my work with that in mind either. I depend on cavers greatly for my work and know that they contribute greatly to cave science and conservation with little recognition of their efforts. Every time a caver reports an observation, either biological, archaeological, historical, or otherwise, it adds to our body of knowledge. Every time I'm using a map to make my way through a cave, I'm making my way through a cave safely because cavers cared enough to survey a cave and contribute their information for the benefit of others. I do not take these things lightly. I will tell you plainly, that I do not understand the hostility which my work and that of many of my colleagues are currently under. I look forward to working with cavers in the future and I definitely look forward to a time of increased understanding and cooperation between cavers, biologists, resource managers, academia, etc.

Please feel free to post further questions about the project and I'll be happy to answer them.

Cory
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby DeanWiseman » Nov 30, 2010 2:30 pm

My only take on this artificial cave is that I think there must be SOMEPLACE already available for highly-controlled studies that are proposed. I can see a lot of dollar bills being spent on a "cave-like" device which neither represents actual conditions, such as the chemistry of the rock and soils and such. It would be a real shame if the "device" did not function as it was intended. :shrug:

I wonder why you couldn't find a small phreatic tube or artificial structure that bats inhabit to use... control for temperature, etc... and it would cost orders of magnitude less.


-Dean


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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby TNCave » Nov 30, 2010 3:13 pm

Hi Dean,

There are definitely places that could be adapted for research use that would cost a lot less money to build. Unused railroad tunnels and ammunitions bunkers for example. But adapting them to maintain 4-9 degrees C for hibernating bats can be difficult. Building a cold air trap cave from scratch is challenging, adapting an existing structure would be complicated, but is certainly worth trying. Additionally, it would take time for bats to naturally colonize such a place, unless it was very nearby a significant fall swarming site. In the Chiroptoreum in TX for example, it took Mexican free-tailed bats six years to colonize in the artificial cave, if gray bats prove to be susceptible to WNS, we may not have six years. This project is a big, experimental model, that if successful could be replicated for hopefully, much less money. And for species other than gray bats, an artificial cave wouldn't need to be as large.

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