Last week I was fortunate enough to attend the 40th North American Society for Bat Research Symposium in Denver, CO. It was good to catch up with some bat research friends from the southeast and midwest, and to have an opportunity to meet in person all the amazing, hard-working researchers and state and federal agency employees I work with over email and the telephone every day.
A variety of research presentations addressed every aspect of white-nose syndrome and its impact on bats and bat populations. Professional researchers, university scientists and students presented on WNS related topics from susceptibility, immune response and behavior of affected animals to the use of new technologies in surveillance, monitoring and mitigation of WNS.
The good news: the best and brightest bat researchers from across North America are taking WNS seriously. Most presentations- even when not directly related to WNS- made mention of the potential impacts of this deadly disease, and how their findings fit in the big picture of bat conservation with the potential loss of much of our hibernating bat population in the United States and Canada.
There was a distinct sense of urgency among all the “disciplines” within the bat research community: conservation, disease, evolution, behavior, population ecology. The message was clear, we must work together to address WNS and protect North American bat populations before it is too late.
A plenary session and panel discussion about WNS on Thursday afternoon reinforced this message. A plea from several of the most well-respected bat researchers in North America went out to the crowd. “Your research is important. Do not assume it is being done already, or that your contribution is too small. This is an all hands on deck situation.”