File - Nicole Reiff

Nicole Reiff
36 Baldwin Street
New Brunswick, NJ, 08905
March 16, 2013
Chief, Threatened and Endangered Species Division
Northeast Regional Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
300 Westgate Center Drive
Hadley, MA 01035-9587
Dear Mr. Martin Miller,
I am writing you to express my deep rooted interest in the bat populations across the Northeast
United States. As chief of the Threatened and Endangered Species Division in the Northeast
Regional Office of U.S Fish and Wildlife Services, I am certain that you are aware of White-nose
Syndrome, the dangerous bat killer caused by fungus Geomyces destructans. After intensive research
on the Northeastern United States bat populations, the history and spread of the fungus, the current
plans of action to combat the fungus as well as other models of prevention of White-nose syndrome,
I have a proposal incorporating abiotic control that will prove to be the most sensible and cost
efficient in protecting bat populations across the Northeast. I am proposing a solution that can
drastically reduce the presence of Geomyces destructans, if it can achieve the proper funding to be
carried out.
This proposal has components that target the environment and habitat of the bat, ensuring there is no
spread of Geomyces destructans. This approach focuses on specific aspects of Northeast bat life
habits. This includes
- Hibernacula installations providing heat.
- Prevention of human interference.
- Cleanup systems of common roosting sites.
The above three divisions of the proposal all contribute to preventing the spread of White-nose
Syndrome. Implementing this proposal will keep Northeast bat populations at healthy levels--and
without bats, the insect population of the Northeast would raise drastically spreading diseases and
destroying crops grown locally. This would have unimaginable consequences.
If you are looking to protect the sensitive bat ecosystems of the Northeast, and in turn prevent the
spread of diseases in humans, chemical usage on crops, and rise in produce costs, then I ask you to
review the following proposal. If your department is able to fund such a project, than there will
inevitably be a rise in the native bat populations once again. Thank you for your time and
consideration. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at 646-251-0094 or
email I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Nicole Reiff
Recovery of Northeast Bat Populations
Combating White-Nose Syndrome through Abiotic Measures
Submitted by:
Nicole Reiff
36 Baldwin Street
New Brunswick, NJ, 08905
Submitted to:
Martin Miller
Chief, Threatened and Endangered Species Division
Northeast Regional Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
300 Westgate Center Drive
Hadley, MA 01035-9587
Submitted for:
Scientific and Technical Writing
Professor Donald Dow
Section 17
Rutgers University
In recent years, major decreases in native bat populations of the northeast have been seen. This
drop is attributed to the fungus Geomyces destructans, a fungus that causes a disease called
White-nose Syndrome. With a decrease in bat populations, natural ecosystems will be disrupted
and the insect population in this region will rise which will affect people living there in profound
ways. With an increase of insect populations, insect-borne and insect carried diseases will spread
much more rapidly. In addition, a large percentage of crops will be destroyed thus effecting the
livelihood of farmers and consumers. The health, economic, and ecological problems this fungus
is causing are too vast to be ignored.
This paper will discuss a proposal to eliminate presence of the fungus in the northeast region by
use of abiotic methods, specifically targeting the hibernacula of northeastern bats. These methods
are not as commonly used as biotic research techniques which have yet to yield successful
results; therefore a change in approach is likely to derive a different outcome. Appealing to the
patron Martin Miller, chief of the Threatened and Endangered Species Division of the Northeast
Regional Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the issue and plan of saving northeastern
bats targets the services’ goals as said in their mission statement.
The plan itself consists of three objectives: preventing human interference, maintaining clean
hibernacula, and installing additions into roosting sites. Based on review of other methods and
approaches to targeting Geomyces destructans, these three parts are likely to be the most
effective at dealing with White-nose Syndrome while remaining cost efficient. To put the plan in
action, staff, heating installations, and cleaning supplies must be accounted for. The budget calls
for one hundred and four thousand, four hundred and sixty dollars to fund the proposal
throughout the Northeastern United States which assuredly is quite cost efficient compared to
other approaches. Environmentally and economically speaking, this proposal is designed to
target a deadly fungus to protect northeast bat populations and humans for a relatively low price.
What is White-nose Syndrome?
Bats and White-nose Syndrome in the Northeast
Effects on Agriculture
Effects on Public Health
Literature Review
Current Approach to White-nose Syndrome
Abiotic Approach & Case Review
Figure 1: Range Affected by WNS
Figure 2: Fungal Ring around Bat Muzzle
Figure 3: Increased Risk of West Nile Virus in the Northeast
Figure 4: Battery Operated Heating Nests
Figure 5: Proposal Budget Breakdown
White-nose Syndrome, first reported in 2006, is a deadly fungus-caused disease that is wiping
out a hefty percentage of the native bat population in the Northeast United States, including New
York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Due to the decrease of bats in this region, insect
populations are no longer regulated causing rapid increases in species that pose health risks to
humans or cause massive amounts of crop damage. Therefore, it is imperative to implement a
plan to rid bats of the fungus, Geomyces destructans. The Federal Division of the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service already has a seven step plan in place: communications, data and technical
information management, diagnostics, disease management, epidemiological and ecological
research, disease surveillance, and conservation and recovery. This proposal uses these steps in
conjunction with its plan, to target the hibernacula of the bats. These abiotic methods are broken
into three distinct parts: installation of battery powered heating devices into roosting sites,
stricter regulation implemented in regards to human contact, and seasonal cleanups of the caves.
What is White-nose Syndrome?
Geomyces destructans is a fungus that infects hibernating bats, and causes them to develop a
disease called White-nose Syndrome. Optimally growing in temperatures 12.5-19.̊ C, or 54.5- 66̊
F, the fungus can be spread bat to bat, human to bat, human to cave, and cave to bat. G.
destructans cannot survive in temperatures over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, but the insides of caves
do not naturally reach that high of temperatures. This fungus has been found in parts of Europe
and in the Northeast United States, but as seen in figure 1, cases of unusual deaths have only
been found in the latter. This demonstrates that the native species of this region are at the greatest
risk of extinction from this disease (Verant, 2012). The fungus, which leads to the development
of White Nose Syndrome, is identified by a white ring that forms around the muzzle of the bat as
seen in figure 2. The effect this disease has on these organisms is that it causes the bats to rise
from their winter hibernation, have depleted body fat due to their unusual stirring behavior, have
scarring and necrosis on their wing tissue, and ultimately starve to death (Reichard, 2009).
Figure 1: Range Affected by WNS
Figure 2: Fungal Ring around Bat Muzzles
Source: National Speleological Society, 2010
Source: NWHC, 2013
Bats and White-nose Syndrome in the Northeast
The Little Brown bat, the Big Brown bat, the Northern Long-eared bat, the already endangered
Indiana bat, the Eastern Small-footed bat, and the Eastern Pipistrelle and a various few other
species native to the Northeastern United States individually consume about 3,000 insects a night
individually. They are critical in maintaining low levels of insect pests in households and farms
across the state (Braun, 2008). White-nose Syndrome, however, is decimating huge amounts of
these native bats, causing their population to drop almost 90 percent in the Northeast. This is
approximately a total of 7 million bats that have already been lost due to the disease (Reichard,
2009). This has profound effects on all other organisms, specifically humans, in this region.
Under the concepts of ecological communities, public health and agriculture are the two fields
that suffer the consequences of White-nose Syndrome.
Effects on Agriculture
All living organisms are regulated by one another, and this is the basis of the ecology. This
extends much further than the decrease of a population of a native species. An environmental
impact such as this one has and will have a huge ecological effect on humans because the insect
populations that were once regulated by bats have and will continue to be rising. Many types of
insects that were once regulated by healthy sized bat populations, such as Cucumber and June
beetles, target crops that Northeasterners and the remaining United States citizens rely on. With
an increase in the insect population, more insect control treatments would be needed on farms
causing the costs of food products to rise dramatically across the region and country. There are
over 140,000 farms situated throughout the Northeast that help support its own region and
external regions’ populations, which is approximately 19,410,000 acres of land used for
agriculture (USDA, 2012). Pest suppression that bats offer naturally has been calculated to be
equivalent of a cost of over 70 dollars per each acre used. Already in Ohio alone, there is an
expense of 1.7 billion dollars by the farmers to deal with the crop loss due to insect population
increases (Hunt, 2011). It was estimated by researchers that if the bat population continues to
decimate at the rapid pace it is, United State farmers would lose between 4 billion and 53 billion
dollars annually due to replacing crops lost and pesticide treatments. These costs do not include
the secondary effects of increased usages of pesticides, such as runoff or evolved resistance by
insects (Boyles, 2011). The decrease of bat populations directly affects these farms, which
subsequently affect the rest of the population in two ways. The first is that the economy would
fluctuate accordingly to the prices of food which would affect the farmers’ livelihood and the
consumers demand. Farmers would need to be able to spend increasingly large amounts of
money on insecticides or they will have no choice but to leave the agriculture industry because
they cannot produce enough to earn any profit. Due to the increased spending of farmers on pest
management, prices for these products would rise and consumers would either need to pay more
for their produce or spend their money on alternative items. The second is that treating crops
with so many chemicals can pose unimaginable health risks.
Effects on Public Health
The public health of the Northeast region is likely to take a toll as the bat population decreases
due to Geomyces destructans. The use of chemical pesticides on plants, aside from the burden of
the cost on the farmers, put a burden on the consumers regarding their health. Pyrethroids,
organic compounds which are used in almost all insecticides, have been found to damage
neurological, immune, and reproductive systems in animals. When humans and other animals
ingest foods that have had these chemical compounds, they face this potential health risk. Some
studies in small mammal species show that an increase in the intake of this chemical can lead to
mutated cancer cells or aggravated allergy or asthma attacks (Jabr, 2010). These health problems
linked to pesticides are just part of the way public health is in danger with a decrease in the bat
population. The insects that these bats once preyed on are vectors of disease. Mosquitoes, large
carriers of disease that have an already high presence in the Northeast region, would no longer be
regulated which would lead to more widespread insect-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus.
As seen in figure 3, the risk for West Nile Virus is very high in the region currently, and the
decrease in bats is part of the reason. The first discovery of White-nose Syndrome in the United
States was 2006, around the same time when West Nile Virus experienced sudden fluctuations
and had 400,000 cases reported (Gideon, 2012). The correlation between the increase of the
West Nile Virus and the decrease of bat populations is one that cannot be dismissed. Rate of
consumption of these insects is no longer constant, and thousands of insects that would have
been killed each night are now multiplying. Between 660 to 1320 tons of insects will no longer
be consumed by bats yearly as they had previously been (Boyles, 2012). It is the state’s duty to
protect the people’s health and livelihood which is why the suggested proposal should be
considered for implementation.
Figure 3: Increased Risk of West Nile Virus in the Northeast
Source: Earth Observatory, 2011
Current Approach to White-nose Syndrome
According to scientists, White-nose syndrome in bats has a likeness to AIDS in humans—both of
which are detrimental to the species in which they effect. Like AIDS, bats infected with Whitenose Syndrome show immense immune system dysfunctions and incapability (Shapley, 2012).
This massive destruction, all caused by a cold-tolerant fungus called Geomyces destructans, has
stirred up much interest in the environmental and ecological science community. To combat
White-nose Syndrome in bats, scientists are currently working on a biological cure that would
stop the spread of the disease.
While bat populations are dropping by the hundred thousands, money is currently being put into
researching a cure for White Nose Syndrome. Some of the research being done consists of
performing a variety of assays and analyzing potential pathogens that get destroyed to possibly
find a biological predator to the fungus (Reeder, 2012). An experiment was conducted taking six
strains of the fungus and testing their reaction with a wide variety of drugs already used by
humans and animals to target fungus or infections. Two major classes of drugs were found to
have successful results, but the difficulty is using these drugs in a safe and practical way
(Marchione, 2010). An example of the failed attempt of using a biotic approach to target
Geomyces destructans was by developing a treatment involving an antifungal agent, Terbinafine,
and a naturally occurring compound known as ‘Agent C’ that did seem to be a milestone for
researchers working on the problem. However, after killing the fungus causing White Nose
Syndrome, the treatment was found to be toxic to the bats because once they came in contact
with this fungal cure, they too died (Raloff, 2011). This is one of the many failed results from the
millions of dollars already devoted to finding a biological cure to White Nose Syndrome.
The goal is to find a living organism that will kill Geomyces destructans, but not harm the bat or
any other living things that reside in the hibernacula. This approach if done correctly would be
extremely helpful but not enough research has been done to understand the complete biology of
the spreading fungus, nor is there enough funding to provide an adequate enough amount of
research to be done in the short time available before the damage is too great.
From Congressional appropriation, 1 million dollars have been allotted for research grants, and
450,000 dollars have been granted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS, 2010).
Unfortunately doing research towards finding a biotic cure such as this requires lengthy amounts
of time and large amounts of funding, and does not guarantee any results. The millions of dollars
already put into this type of research have yielded no results that will benefit the Northeast bat
population or eradicate the presence of White-nose Syndrome in the region. Researchers estimate
that just to continue research in this field, at least 10 million dollars in grants and funds must go
towards hiring more lab and field technicians for significant progress to be made but this money
is not at all accessible (Associated Press, 2010). In the long term, a permanent solution to White
Nose Syndrome is critical, but within the limited time ecologists have, resources can be used in a
more efficient way to sustain bat population. There needs to be a fix now to prevent the bat
population in the Northeast from dropping to irreparable numbers that would destroy the
ecosystem for good.
Abiotic Approach & Case Review
Until recently, the only way scientists were able to detect the presence of Geomyces destructans
in bat populations was by visually surveying dead or dying bats. U.S. Forest Service scientists
however discovered that by using highly advanced DNA-based techniques, they were able to
identify the fungus on both bats and on non living things in which they come in contact with.
These things such as soils and cave walls are considered abiotic (NRS, 2013). This illustrates
that the fungus survives in bat roosting site, and don’t need the bat present to survive. It gives
way to an abiotic approach of trying to eliminate the presence of White-nose Syndrome in the
Seeing that biotic approaches have yet to make a dent in the increasing presence of Geomyces
destructans, a new course of action must be looked into. The research being done focuses on the
living spore that causes White-Nose syndrome, but more immediate progress may be made if the
non-living factors are the ones used to prevent the spread of the rapid killer. Non- living things
act as vectors for G. destructans because they are able to survive without the presence of the bats
for lengthy periods of time. Controlling and monitoring the abiotic factors from spreading Whitenose Syndrome can be more effective then physically destroying the fungus itself.
In 2009, at Indiana State University, researchers built boxes with built in heating coils, to add
artificial heat to the caves. Most bats effected by White-nose syndrome rise from their
hibernation and are then unable to lower their body temperature back into torpor, nor raise their
internal body heat high enough to survive the winter. The goal of this project was to maintain a
relatively cold temperature so that bats can enter hibernation, but warm enough that if they arise
during the winter they can gain enough body heat to survive. Mathematical models showed that
these installations are likely to drop mortality down to 8 percent. (Ecological Society of
America, 2009).
Another abiotic method used in attempts to control the spread of Geomyces destructans was
conducted by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. They issued a statement that strongly
encouraged all public and private lands to instate a few regulations in regards to contact between
humans and caves. The main points of this document were to encourage decontamination of gear
and to prevent humans from touching the bats directly. In most cases, because of this, in many
locations screenings are done before allowing humans to explore areas of hibernacula.
Preventing contact of humans in the area of hibernation prevents the spread of the fungus
because humans and their equipment can act as carriers of disease. In fact, it is hypothesized that
European hikers traveling in the United States was what started the spread of White-nose
Syndrome in the country (USFWS, 2011).
Tennessee bats were showing symptoms of white-nose syndrome and decided to take radical
action by formulating a plan that targeted abiotic factors to prevent the spread of Geomyces
destructans. After raising 300,000 dollars from private donations, researchers built an artificial
cave of 80 feet long, 16 feet wide, and 11 feet tall, that partially went underground. The cave is
equipped with cameras and thermometers to regulate the conditions inside. In addition, because
the cave is artificially built, nests can be installed and removed for cleaning between seasons to
prevent spread and contact of White-nose syndrome fungi (Gorman, 2012).
With higher success rates than experimental biotic approaches, targeting the non living
environment around the bats is proven to help reduce the spread of Geomyces destructans.
Specifically, the fungus was found to effect hibernation patterns, which in turn affects the health
of the bat. The bat can pass on the fungus during spring and summer months, so targeting the
hibernacula, or location of hibernation, to make sure that population of bats hibernating have the
right standards of living is the most important focus for preventing the spread in months to come.
The proposal that is being introduced is influenced by previous methods of action taken that uses
abiotic methods of targeting the fungus, with alterations specific to the funding appropriated and
the demographic effected.
The plan consists of three main components—all targeting the roosting site of bats. Assuming
the requested funding is supplied, and enough people are trained and equipped to manage the
treatment of these caves, the steps provided will make a drastic decrease in the spread of
Geomyces destructans. The first part is the installation of battery operated heaters, which will
ensure the survival of any bats disrupted during their hibernation. The second part is to regulate
human contact with the caves, and provide gear clean up for anyone exploring the caves. The last
component is to have a seasonal cleanup, eradicating the presence of the fungus in the caves
during the spring when bats have left their roosting site.
Below is the breakdown of the above proposal:
Northeast Bat Hibernacula Implementations 2013-2014
The first thing needed to put this proposal into action is to obtain the materials and staffing
needed for the implementations. For the first year of action, only approximately 200 main
roosting sites would be focused on—though if and when successful, all bat roosting sites must be
cleaned to eliminate White Nose Syndrome in the Northeast. This is because bats can carry the
fungus. So if they change hibernacula, they can infect previously clean caves. At the start of
autumn, approximately 1200 battery operated heaters would need to be purchased.
Environmental cleaning supplies and heating lamps would also need to be supplied for spring.
Staffing would be expected to come from three groups, in which they all would be trained on
how to safely be involved in the environment and work in caves.
The Northeast Regional Office: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees that
already work in this field of wildlife conservation. They would simply be
redirected to be a part of this project and implementation. Many are already in
charge of the visitor regulations already (USFWS, 2011).
Seasonal workers: During the Spring and Summer, students or others looking for
seasonal or part time work would be doing the clean ups. Jobs advertisements
would be on government listings and on the Northeast’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service’s website.
Interns and environmental activist volunteers: Environmental groups would be
notified that volunteers are needed to help with installations and clean up’s to help
with bat preservation. In addition, universities throughout the northeast with
strong environmental programs would be notified of internships available to
students interested in White Nose Syndrome prevention. These schools include
Rutgers University, Northeast University, and the University of New Hampshire
due to their extensive research programs in environmental science and ecology.
The execution of this plan has three parts:
Part 1: Installing battery operated heating nests, as seen in figure 4, that consistently
maintains a level of heat while not being powered electrically. This idea, a modified
version of the heaters proposed to be installed by Indiana State University, would save
energy and keep the heat in a limited area safely—thus only bats that awoke from torpor
would have the option to surround themselves with the heat. These battery operated
heating nests would be installed in early autumn. Battery heated additions to the cave
would not cause any damage to the rest of the natural environment and would eliminate
any chance of fires starting in the cave, that electrically wired heating nests would risk.
The fungus which causes bats to stir during rest causes a waste in energy and a problem
in maintaining warmth. This battery installation would allow bats to have a body
temperature high enough to survive the winter.
Figure 4: Battery Operated Heating Nests
Source: Heimbuch, 2009
Part 2: The Northeastern Regional Office of Fish and Wildlife would enforce a different
policy on human regulation of cave exploration. During winter months when bats are in
hibernation, the caves must be closed to the public and access is denied to all, aside from
a few scientists. During warmer months, there will be a charge for anyone who desires to
explore the cave. This charge would not be an admission cost, but rather a sanitary cleanup cost, and once paid the visitors are free to travels within 10 miles of the sanitization
site before needing their gear to be cleaned once again. Guests would pay a fee that
would pay for the chemicals to sanitize the gear of the visitors, and the task of
sanitization by environmental workers. The fee would be calculated by the division
depending on the amount of visitors, gear, and vehicles being brought into the
hibernacula. The chemicals being used to sanitize equipment would be based on the
United State Fish and Wildlife Service’s recommendations of using Lysol disinfectants
and a watered down solution of bleach (USFWS, 2011).
Winter is the most fragile time in a bats life, and they must not be disturbed at all while
they are at rest. Visitors may be likely of carrying the fungus or diseases that can threaten
bat populations even further. Geomyces destructans was carried by explorers from
Europe to the United States, thus humans are a vector of White Nose Syndrome and
regulations such as this are critical.
Part 3: Hibernacula cleanup would occur. This is an efficient way of removing Geomyces
destructans. Influenced by the artificial cave built in Tennessee, during spring and
summer months the common nesting and hibernation sites would be sterilized.
Environmentalists and volunteers that were trained by the United States Fish and Wildlife
Service would go into the caves and wash down the walls with a cleaner that doesn’t
harm the environment. In fact, scientists tested 2000 compounds against samples of
Geomyces destructans, and 5 antiseptics were found to greatly inhibit the fungus
(Marchione, 2010). These cleaning agents would be used to clean the entrances of the
caves, as well as the main roosting sites. In addition, the battery operated heat
installations would be taken down for complete sterilization. High doses of light would
also be a tactic to use a focused heat to kill the fungus. The fungus will not survive higher
than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so using a high powered heating lamp to target specific areas
with a high likelihood of having the fungus would be an effective way of eradication.
Removing any presence of the fungi and cleaning the quarters that are likely to harbor
any bacteria or disease could reduce spread of White Nose Syndrome in the following
hibernation months to come. High temperatures of heat can kill the fungus, but only
during spring and summer months could this tactic be used without harming bats and
other cave-dwelling species. When bats have clean hibernacula, they have a much higher
rate of survival.
Following the implementation of this plan, at the end of the summer an assessment would be
conducted. Scientists would go in the hibernacula and check for presence of Geomyces
destructans. Using the DNA-based techniques, the soil and walls in the cave will be tested. Over
the multiple years this proposal is in place, checking for presence of the fungus on the battery
heaters will be an accurate way to see if bats are suffering from disrupted hibernations. If this
plan is put into action using the procedures described above, there should be extremely low
cases, if any at all, of the fungus present in these caves. When the fungus is completely
eradicated from a cave, White-nose Syndrome emerging from those hibernacula will no longer
be reducing bat populations. This plan should be repeated for another few years to ensure that
White Nose Syndrome is completely eradicated from all roosting sites in the Northeast. Once
this method proves to be successful, this approach can be transported and adjusted to smaller
caves in the area and even Europe.
The budget includes all items and staffing necessary for the first year of implementation of the
proposal. Though as this plan proves to be successful, and the supplies and staffing needed will
increase to encompass all areas of roosting in the Northeast, the first year will target only 200
large hibernacula of bats. Knowing that the United Stated Fish and Wildlife Service was allotted
450,000 dollars from congress to target White-nose Syndrome, the budget of the proposal was
designed to only use a portion of this funding to eradicate Geomyces destructans in northeastern
caves (USFWS, 2010).
Overall Financial Breakdown 2013-2014
Battery Operated Heater Cost:
1200 Heaters (6 per cave) x $35
Regulation Implementation Cost:
Pays for itself
Cleaning Supplies:
400 Cleaning Agents x $4
20 Portable Heating Lamps x $53
Government Labor- No additional cost
Interns- Unpaid
100 Seasonal Laborers x $600
= $104,460.00
Figure 5: Proposal Budget Breakdown
Battery Heaters
Heating Lamps
1% 2%
Depending on success and amount of widespread interest, costs may decrease in following years
due to lack of need for heaters and lamps, as well as an increased publicity for volunteers and
The funding and implementation of this proposal allows for the opportunity to rebuild native bat
populations, reduce the fluctuation effects from other species in bat ecosystems from radical
increases or decreases, and mainly help the human population in both the areas of public health
and economics. This is a relatively small cost in comparison to the other possible methods of
control of the fungus Geomyces destructans. While biotic means are necessary, currently they
have done very little, but cost the government and private benefactors very much. Seeing that
biotic approaches have yet to make a dent in the increasing presence of Geomyces destructans, a
new course of action must be looked into. The research being done focuses on the living spore
that causes White-Nose syndrome, but more immediate progress may be made if the non-living
factors are the ones used to prevent the spread of the rapid killer.
The eradication of White Nose Syndrome in the Northeast falls directly under the domain of the
Threatened and Endangered Species Division of the Northeast Regional Fish and Wildlife
Office. In their own words “Part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Service conserves,
protects, and enhances fish and wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of present and future
generations. Service biologists contribute to the health of our environment — and consequently
our quality of life — by protecting and restoring important habitat, safeguarding endangered
species, minimizing environmental contamination, and restoring fish populations. In addition, the
Service provides funds to support state fish and wildlife programs and enforces federal laws
protecting wildlife (Weber, 2011)” and this proposal is the most affordable way to do all of that.
If this proposal is funded, bat populations will undoubtedly increase compared to the past five
years when White-nose Syndrome wiped out large portions of the native bats of the Northeast. It
is likely that with the three divisions of the plan to use abiotic approaches, the consequences of
ecological change due to Geomyces destructans will be greatly reduced without having caused
irreversible damage. The battery heated nests that would be installed would ensure that those
infected with White-nose Syndrome survive the winter. The regulations regarding human contact
in caves would limit the spread of the fungus between distant hibernacula. Lastly, the cave cleanup would be the final way to remove the disease from caves before bats return to nest there once
again. This proposal would keep prevent bat populations from dropping while also making their
living environments a cleaner, safer place.
If this proposal proves to be as successful as expected, breakthroughs in this field would help
scientists and researchers find other alternatives with dealing with diseases. Not only would this
three step plan be able to be implemented in Europe and other regions of the United States, but
any other species being targeted by an agent with no known cure would have a basis of how to
limit deaths without incredible amounts of spending. The main thing that researchers may be
able to learn from the success of this proposal is the effect of public health versus medicine.
When medicines are inaccessible or non-existent, it is critical to know if prevention and
sanitation measures are enough to keep the spread of disease limited.
Since 2006, White Nose Syndrome, caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans has been the
most prominent cause of bat deaths in the Northeast region of the United States. The disease has
been known to spread from bat to bat and also from cave to bat. Biological cures have, and
currently are, being looked into but there is no guarantee of how much time and funding must be
put in before a breakthrough will be made. However, knowing that the fungus has the ability to
spread from cave to bat, targeting the roosting locations of bats very well may be the solution to
this very critical problem facing all people living in the Northeast. By doing this, the outbreak of
the fungus will be prevented, and living conditions for bats will be cleaner to promote healthier
lives. If nothing is done to stop the decrease of the bat populations though, than there is a high
likelihood of regional extinction of the native bats in the Northeast. The repercussions of this
would be vast due to ecosystem deterioration; the livelihood of farmers would be hurt,
consumers would need to make difficult decisions between cost and value, large amounts of
chemicals would potentially cause physiological damage to citizens the health, and there would
be an increase of insect-carried diseases in the region (Caven, 2012). There are only so many
ways that this issue can be approached and with the lack of time and funds able to be put towards
research and finding a cure, this abiotic approach is the only one that is affordable and efficient.
The Threatened and Endangered Species Division of the Northeast Regional Office of the United
States Fish and Wildlife Service has a small window of opportunity to make a big difference.
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Braun, John. (2008). Bats of New Jersey. Retrieved from
Butchkoski, Cal. (2013). WNS Occurrence by County [Map]. Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Caven, Andrew. (2012). White Nose Syndrome in the United States. Received from
Earth Observatory. (2011). Map of West Nile Virus Risk [Map]. International Research
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