USFWS WNS Workshop summary

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USFWS WNS Workshop summary

Postby bigredfoote » Sep 29, 2014 2:27 am

Below is my summary from the USFWS WNS Workshop earlier this month. The agenda and abstracts are at ... -workshops.

Jennifer Foote
NSS WNS Liaison


Surprisingly the key word at this years WNS Workshop is hope!

Day 1 Research:
-Though some species have 99% mortality, there are some signs of resiliency in the survivors. Three species have high infection and mortality (little brown, northern long ear, tricolors), four have lower. In many cases big browns have an infection rate of only 40%. There is hope that grey bats will be one of the species with lower mortality due to lower fungal loads. Unfortunately, southern caves are an ever better environment for the fungus than northern caves.
- Little brown bats are getting identified as "super spreaders" but genetics show that they do not disperse out west like they do out east, so we may have a year or two to implement some biological control measures (what we will learn about today). There may even be hope for pips that don't roost with little brown bats.
-There was some complaining about the Northern Long Eared bat listing taking up all the agency time.
-Cave/mine soils and even bat houses seem to be a reservoir for the fungus. Even though bat to bat is clearly recognized as the method of transmission, the bats are picking it up again from the infected roosts. Nets used in August are still testing positive for the fungus, decon is not going away.
- However, I had a discussion with a Canadian about how the decon policy needs to be implementable and be realistic with risk management. They have a lot of unknown karst out west, and cavers refused to do research if it meant they had to do full decon between caves next to each other in uncontaminated areas. There may be some examples we can use to encourage flexibility. I hope to push the "clean caving" idea as opposed to full decon with every cave entrance. The flexibility that show caves have had in implenting decon is another example I will try to use.
- The fungus in North America is clonal and only has one mating type. In Europe there are two mating types, but reproduction is still primarily clonal. It could be bad if there were to be another importation of a p.d. fungus from Europe that increases genetic variability in the North American version.
- Overall cave fungus in N.A. and Europe are similar. 50% of 250 caves sampled in Europe were positive for the fungus.

Day 1 politics: from the stakeholder/steering committee meeting (a lot of this has to do with the national management plan: ... ional-plan).
- No progress on the revised cave advisory, but the stakeholder committee asked for a deadline.
-It was actually recognized this year that the government agencies should be using the stakeholders as other than a token checkbox that they consulted with us.
- There were comments on the lack of transparency on the process for awarding research funding, frustration that biological controls weren't funded.
-BCI wrote a letter to USFWS on a need to review committee leaders expertise, that several committees are stuck and not making progress. I feel I have a lot to learn about formal letter writing describing our position and why we have the right to be heard.
- It was also mentioned that the only thing non-researchers can really "do to fight WNS" is write letters to congress and donate to support research. It was not mentioned that the only thing we can do is decon.
- The stakeholder committees will provide comments to the steering committee about the structure of the committees and provide invitations for additional stakeholders (CRF, Canadian Caving groups).

Day 2 summary: Unpublished research presentations on Physiology, communications, captive bat management, disease management. Panel on treatment testing protocols. Poster session.

Lots of presentations on in progress research on how bats respond to p.d.(all species are different). A cure is unlikely but there is potential to increase survival rates. Canada is developing guidance docs to reduce the risk of human assisted spread and promoting bat conservation by reducing habitat loss. Docs need to be simple and easy to follow.

First two weeks after hibernation is the critical time for mortality in bats as the energy cost to fight the fungus is high. There seems to be a general antibody to fungus in some bats. There are different bacteria on bats netted in cave entrances and bats on the "surface". A surface treatment was described as well as VOCs.

Treatment testing protocols- point was made that research needs to follow 8 stages of disease treatment process and peer reviewed process. Problem with which regulatory agency applies, EPA or pesticides. Reminder that researchers and land managers need to consider whole cave ecosystem not just bats.

I gave my poster presentation on NSS Support.


Day 3: Working sessions:
Conservation and Recovery:

-BMPs for transportation agencies being developed. Estimated 60-90% of bats use bridges or culverts as roosts, 1-90% of bridges are used as roosts (needs more research).

-BMPs for land managers and owners:forestry, still early in development

- BMPs for Nuisance Wildlife Control Operator (NWCO): Almost done. Regs are different in every state (including none), interesting point was developing minimum acceptable vs best management standards.

-NA Bat updates: this is a new program to get baseline acoustical data in North America. State (or provinces/territories) coordinators will guide "citizen science".

Concurrent sessions, I went to:

Surveillance-Two major projects. USGS and UCSC. Considering 3 zones: infected, intermediate, and clean. Doing swab sampling in all. Swabbing bats best, higher probablity of false negative on environment. We really don't know how WNS will present in western bats and new climate.

Microclimate monitoring- Possible location for data is USGS Bat population database, need to develop protocol on how data is submitted. Some states have 200+ loggers, some people have 15 min intervals, too much raw data. Lots of failure with humidity loggers, only useful in dry caves, if logger shorts, your cave/mine/other is wet enough to support p.d. Most people using temp only loggers which won't short in high humidity. Getting some expertise from cavers at best locations to monitor cave microclimate was desired.

Data management- Data can be marked public or private by submitters, researchers will need to contact data owners to access data.

Applied research discussion- This is where everyone's differences were most apparent. Bat scientists wanting to preserve/conserve bats, treatment researchers wanting to test asap, wildlife managers wanting to take a risk and save their remaining bats asap, cavers worried about the whole cave ecosystem.


Day 4:more working sessions

Revisiting WNS and Pd spread models: Some discussion on details on how models can't take unknown information into account and are therefore unlikely to be accurate, and (I'm making this part up) that the level of unknown should be part of the pretty colors in the model so people understand how much you are pulling numbers out of your @$$.

Wrap up: No workshop next year to get back on the early summer schedule, it was felt 1.5 years was too long for research to wait to be shared especially with possible treatments getting closer, but planning the meeting is difficult. One of the student researchers will put together an annotated bibliography/published literature guide to improve upon the list of research that USFWS has.
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