Contact: Keren Giovengo, 912-280-1586, firstname.lastname@example.org
The EcoScapes Sustainable Land Use Program at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant will present two scientists who will each talk about their research on bats and the deadly white-nose syndrome that has killed millions of these unique creatures in North America.
The program will take place from 12-1 p.m., Friday, Aug. 14, at UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant, 715 Bay Street in Brunswick. Participants are encouraged to bring their lunches.
In North America, more than 6 million bats have been killed by white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that attacks certain bat species while the mammals are hibernating, which is a critical and incredibly sensitive period during a bat’s life cycle. Lesions and skin irritation from fungal growth disrupt normal hibernation, causing dehydration, starvation, and often cause bats to leave caves too early –during the winter – when no food is available and when they can freeze to death.
“Bats play ecological roles that are vital to the health of natural ecosystems and human economies,” said Keren Giovengo, EcoScapes program manager.
Many species of bats provide important natural pest control by consuming thousands of night-flying insects in an evening, including mosquitoes and some of the most damaging agricultural pests.
“For example, free-tailed bats, which are common in coastal Georgia, are known to specialize in eating farm pests such as cucumber beetles, pickleworm moths and corn earworm moths,” Giovengo said. “With bats consuming these insects, fewer chemicals need to be used by farmers.”
Keynote speaker Christopher Cornelison, professor of applied and environmental microbiology at Georgia State University, will speak on “Managing White-Nose Syndrome: Developing Tools to Control a Devastating Fungal Pathogen of Bats.”
Fish and wildlife biologist Pete Pattavina of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will discuss “Bat Diversity in Georgia: Issues, Impacts and Conservation.”
“White-nose syndrome of bats presents an unprecedented challenge in the field of microbial control,” said Cornelison. “Developing tools to meet this challenge requires outside-the-box ideas and luck.”
Cornelison’s research has focused on leveraging naturally occurring antagonism to fight white-nose syndrome. He added that his research has benefited from a multidisciplinary approach founded on collaborations with state and federal agencies as well as a number of public institutions.
In Georgia, evidence of white-nose syndrome was first observed in winter of 2012-13.
“This year, all of the North Georgia caves we visited had active signs of infection,” Pattavina said. “Since 2013, our total winter bat counts are down by 82 percent, after just a few years.”
Currently, the disease is limited to North Georgia. In Georgia’s Coastal Plain, the bat community is slightly different and certain bat species don’t hibernate like in the northern portions of Georgia.