I am honored to write my first "Memo" to Bat Conservation International's dedicated members as we begin the search for a new Executive Director. I would first like to thank Nina Fascione for the commitment and leadership she demonstrated during the two years she led BCI. We all wish her only the best.
Yet, even as we work through this transition, the threats facing bats around the world continue to grow. Let me reassure you that we will not be distracted from our mission: We will keep working tirelessly to conserve the world's bats and their ecosystems to ensure a healthy planet. We will continue to celebrate BCI's 30 years of successful bat conservation and to join with colleagues around the world to celebrate International Year of the Bat.
As part of a new Strategic Plan that we are developing as a guide for the next five years, BCI is committed to dramatically expanding our international reach through collaborative conservation efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. We will also be working to magnify the impact of our Student Research Scholarship and Global Grassroots Conservation Fund programs.
Our renewed international effort is already under way. BCI signed a Memorandum of Understanding last March with RELCOM, the Latin America Bat Conservation Network. As an immediate result, we have increased our collaboration with RELCOM and are actively supporting conservation projects, led by local partners, in 13 Latin America countries.
In the Asia-Pacific region, we are working closely with the Southeast Asia Bat Conservation and Research Unit to increase bat-conservation capacity of professionals throughout the area. As part of that initiative, I will be attending a workshop in Thailand in early July.
I am delighted to announce that in February 2013, we will launch a collaborative bat-conservation initiative in Sub-Saharan Africa, including the creation of an African bat-conservation network. Our multinational steering committee has already confirmed plans for the inaugural workshop, with participants expected from 18 African countries.
And, of course, we remain fully committed to meeting the critical conservation challenges facing us here in the United States. We must slow the spread of White-nose Syndrome, reduce the bat fatalities at wind turbines, protect important cave and mine roosts and water supplies, and train the next generation of bat conservationists. BCI will continue to educate both the general public and decision-makers about the benefits of bats and the threats they face.
It is a privilege to serve BCI as the Interim Executive Director, and I am confident that, with your continued help and support, we will make significant progress around the world. Stay tuned for updates as we work together to chart BCI's path for the next 30 years of bat conservation.
Dr. Dave Waldien, who joined BCI in 2004, is Vice President of Operations & International Programs. He was named Interim Executive Director by BCI's Board of Directors.