UT Team Receives Grant to Address Deadly Bat Disease

A UT team has received a federal grant to help combat a deadly disease affecting bats.

The grant will be used to explore how the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome affects Southeastern bats during hibernation. The group’s research will attempt to find resolutions to help manage this crisis by examining the waking from winter slumber, cave emergence, and foraging behavior.

Emma Willcox, assistant professor of wildlife management in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries in the UT Institute of Agriculture, is the lead investigator of a $248,500 grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Willcox is the lead researcher on the project and is partnering with Gary McCracken, professor in UT’s Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Riley Bernard, postdoctoral associate, also in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries.

“We are excited to have received a US Fish and Wildlife Service award to explore some of the behavioral and ecological reasons for differences in white-nose syndrome susceptibility among three federally endangered or threatened bat species—the Indiana bat, the gray bat, and the northern long-eared bat,” said Willcox. “We will use our results to develop management strategies and conservation actions that we hope will lead to enhanced survival of these imperiled bat species from white-nose syndrome.”

Willcox’s grant is one of twenty-six that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has awarded in reaction to an international response to combat white-nose syndrome. It awarded a total of $2.5 million in grants for research, management, and communications projects. Investing in these areas will aid in the effort to stop the spread of this deadly fungal disease, which has taken the lives of millions of North American bats.

Since 2008, the service has granted more than $24 million to institutions and federal and state agencies for white-nose syndrome research and response. About $1 million was awarded earlier this year to state agencies.

Funding for the grants was provided through the service’s Endangered Species Recovery and Science Applications programs. Additional funding for the research was provided by the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Center for Wildlife Health.

Additional information about white-nose syndrome is available at whitenosesyndrome.org.

Contact:

Emma Willcox (865-974-7888, ewillcox@utk.edu)

Lola Alapo (865-974-3993, lalapo@utk.edu)