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$100,000 in Grants Awarded to Fight Fungus

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$100,000 in Grants Awarded to Fight Fungus

Published on October 14, 2015
Written by Micaela Jemison


Little brown myotis with WNS
Little brown myotis with WNS Credit: Michael Schirmacher

For the second year, Bat Conservation International (BCI) and the Tennessee Chapter of The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are pleased to award $100,000 in funding to support critical research in the fight against White-nose Syndrome (WNS). Together, BCI and TNC reviewed and selected three solution-oriented projects that are working to identify and develop tools to control the fungus that causes WNS.

One way to combat WNS is to manage the fungus that causes it. BCI and TNC have chosen to provide critical funding to research projects that seek to develop different tools to control the fungus,Pseudogymnoascusdestructans (Pd), in hope of finding treatments for the disease. “We want to have many different tools in our tool box,” says BCI’s Imperiled Species Director Katie Gillies. “There isn’t likely to be a single silver bullet as WNS is affecting several species across a broad geographic area. Developing a suite of tools is likely to be more effective than putting all our eggs in one basket.”

The three newly funded projects take very different approaches to managing the fungus that causes WNS, P. destructans. The first project, proposed by Dr. Auston M. Kilpatrick of the University of California, Santa Cruz seeks to optimize the treatment of bats using a bacteria as a biological control of the fungus. The second project, proposed by Dr. Joan Bennett of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, will test a fumigation compound as control for the fungal disease. The third project, proposed by Dr. Chris Cornelison of Georgia State University, builds on existing BCI-TNC supported research. Cornelison seeks to optimize the production of a naturally-occurring bacterium a to allow broad scale use of it in treatments.

All of these proposed treatments for WNS are “biocontrols”—that is, introducing naturally occurring organisms and substances, which are antagonistic to the Pd fungus that causes WNS. “Biocontrols could be a massive step forward in fighting WNS. If proven effective, they can be developed and deployed quickly.” says Gillies. “While there is an inherent risk in manipulating organisms to try to control pathogens, we think the potential benefits for bats across North America in controlling WNS is worth the risk.”

White-nose Syndrome is a devastating disease that has killed at least six million bats in North America since its arrival in 2006. The disease currently affects seven different species of bats and is confirmed in 26 states and five Canadian provinces. The research support program funded by BCI and TNC to fight WNS is now in its second year of awarding grants. You can help support critical WNS research by donating to BCI’s WNS Response Program at www.batcon.org/donate or to The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee at www.nature.org/tngiving.

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