Date of Thesis

2011

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis

Department

Biology

First Advisor

DeeAnn Reeder

Abstract

The objective of this project was to determine the relationship between hibernacula microclimate and White-nose Syndrome (WNS), an emerging infectious disease in bats. Microclimate was examined on a species scale and at the level of the individual bat to determine if there was a difference in microclimate preference between healthy and WNS-affected little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and to determine the role of microclimate in disease progression. There is anecdotal evidence that colder, drier hibernacula are less affected by WNS. This was tested by placing rugged temperature and humidity dataloggers in field sites throughout the eastern USA, experimentally determining the response to microclimate differences in captive bats, and testing microclimate roosting preference. This study found that microclimate significantly differed from the entrance of a hibernaculum versus where bats traditionally roost. It also found hibernaculum temperature and sex had significant impacts on survival in WNS-affected bats. Male bats with WNS had increased survivability over WNS-affected female bats and WNS bats housed below the ideal growth range of the fungus that causes WNS, Geomyces destructans, had increased survival over those housed at warmer temperatures. The results from this study are immediately applicable to (1) predict which hibernacula are more likely to be infected next winter, (2) further our understanding of WNS, and (3) determine if direct mitigation strategies, such as altering the microclimate of mines, will be effective ways to combat the spread of the fungus.

Share

COinS