Artificial Test Cave

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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby Dr_Beaner » Nov 30, 2010 7:46 pm

TNCave wrote: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


Thanks for your answers Cory.

I am glad you took the time to share this with us.

Brian
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby tncaver » Nov 30, 2010 9:06 pm

Cory Holiday wrote an answer to the following question:
7. Will bats be free to enter / exit the structure and if so how can they control WNS bat to bat transmission?

Cory replied:
Bats will be free to enter/exit as they please. Bats will certainly be coming in with WNS and contaminating the cave

Cory, why are you so sure that bats will be coming in with WNS?
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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby TNCave » Dec 2, 2010 9:45 am

We know from years of banding data that gray bats move around and mix...a lot. They also swarm in large numbers in the fall where they come in contact with lots of other species.
The map below indicates gray bat movements we have tracked through band recoveries. This is in no way a complete picture, but an indication based on limited banding efforts.

It seems only a matter of time that all cave bats, regardless of their individual susceptibility, will be at least seasonal carriers of Geomyces destructans, especially those bats entering caves with hundreds of thousands of bats, like our gray bat caves. Multiple species will swarm major caves in the fall to breed, whether they are hibernating in that cave or not. Some species tend to move around throughout the winter and will even come out of caves to drink and move to a different roost. Based on what I know about bat behavior, I am of the opinion that bats will likely be flying into our artificial cave carrying G.d. and possibly with full blown WNS. But as with many things relating to WNS, that is an assumption and only time will tell.

Cory


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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby tncaver » Dec 2, 2010 9:59 am

Cory,
Thank you for that very up to date information. It also explains how infections can move great distances bat to bat in a single season
as well as how different species may be infected.

TNCave wrote:We know from years of banding data that gray bats move around and mix...a lot. They also swarm in large numbers in the fall where they come in contact with lots of other species.
The map below indicates gray bat movements we have tracked through band recoveries. This is in no way a complete picture, but an indication based on limited banding efforts.

It seems only a matter of time that all cave bats, regardless of their individual susceptibility, will be at least seasonal carriers of Geomyces destructans, especially those bats entering caves with hundreds of thousands of bats, like our gray bat caves. Multiple species will swarm major caves in the fall to breed, whether they are hibernating in that cave or not. Some species tend to move around throughout the winter and will even come out of caves to drink and move to a different roost. Based on what I know about bat behavior, I am of the opinion that bats will likely be flying into our artificial cave carrying G.d. and possibly with full blown WNS. But as with many things relating to WNS, that is an assumption and only time will tell.

Cory


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Re: Artificial Test Cave

Postby PYoungbaer » Apr 6, 2012 7:00 am

This thread has been inactive for a while, but groundbreaking on the artificial test cave is to begin soon:

http://cavingnews.com/20120403-artificial-bat-cave-to-be-built-in-clarksville-tennessee-this-spring?utm_source=cavingnewswidget&
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