Bruce Connery, wildlife biologist at Acadia National Park and David Yates, mammal program director at the Biodiversity Research Institute, Portland, will speak about Pseudogymnoascus destructans, a fungus known as white nose syndrome (WNS) that first infected several species of bats inhabiting Mount Desert Island in 2011. Since then, biologists have documented dramatic declines in populations of little brown and northern long-eared bats. The fungus also appears to have affected a significant number of eastern small-footed myotis bats, although the effect on that population is still unclear.
The reduced level of insect control that is a result of the decline in the bat population means significantly higher numbers of insect pests in agricultural areas, forests and wetlands, as well as in areas inhabited by humans, according to Connery. In addition to the loss of bats, which Connery calls “little ecosystem managers,” WNS could also have effects on local economies, including tourism, forest products and agriculture.
Research is underway to study the life history of the fungus, how it affects bats, why it has spread so quickly in North America and how it might be controlled or eliminated. While no solutions have been identified to eradicate the disease, biologists have identified ways of protecting the remaining populations. Connery and Yates will talk about bats on Mount Desert Island, how research is guiding management and how you can help preserve the bat population.
The February 3 MDI Science Café is the first in the 2016 series of Cafés offered by the MDI Biological Laboratory in fulfillment of its mission to increase public engagement with science. The Cafés offer a chance to hear directly from scientists about their latest research. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.
In honor of Acadia National Park’s Centennial, the 2016 MDI Science Café schedule includes several presentations on biological research relevant to the national park.
For more information, visit MDI Science Cafés or call 207.288.3147.