Corvallis Team Wins Against Bat Fungus

Researchers from Oregon State University and University of California Santa Cruz recently teamed up to win a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Prize Challenge. The goal? To fight against white-nose syndrome, a lethal fungus that has caused the death of millions of bats in North America.  

According to an article by OSU Newsroom, the team won $20,000 for their proposal, which presented an aerosol spray that will genetically silence the fungus which leads to the disease.  

White-nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that often appears as white fluff on the nose and wings of bats. It spreads easily in cold and damp areas and usually infects bats while they are hibernating. The syndrome has been confirmed in 35 states and seven provinces in Canada. In some areas, 90-100% of the bats have been killed by the disease.  

There is no cure for white-nose syndrome, so scientists are working to study it and learn how to control it. The U.S. National Response to white-nose Syndrome is a multi-agency effort led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that is overseeing much of the research being done worldwide.  

The recent challenge was launched by the service’s White-nose Syndrome Program to try to develop management tools to combat the disease. 47 proposals were submitted to the challenge, and a panel of 18 experts from academic institutions, federal agencies, and nongovernmental organizations chose the winners based on topics including deployment scale, ease of use, readiness, risk, and resources.  

The spray proposed by the research team will help prevent the disease without harming bats, their habitat, or other organisms. It was developed by Oregon State researchers Emily Dziedzic, Jenny Urbina Gonzalez, Jared LeBoldus, Michael Gordon, and Taal Levi, along with A. Marm Kilpatrick from UC Santa Cruz.  

The Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, Aurelia Skipwith, told OSU Newsroom, “White-nose syndrome is devastating native bat populations at unprecedented rates and this proposed solution from the Oregon State University and University of California team may be just the catalyst we need to give bats across North America a better chance at survival. I thank all of the individuals and teams who joined the challenge, including a high school science club. It demonstrates how people of all ages and backgrounds care about wildlife and want to help conserve species and their habitats long into the future.”  

Emily Dziedzic, an OSU graduate student, co-led the research alongside post-doctoral researcher Jenny Urbina Gonzalez.  

“My team and I are extremely excited to be contributing to collective efforts to combat the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome in bats,” Dziedzic said. “We greatly appreciate being recognized for our achievements on this front, and the funding will provide an essential boost to help us further our research and accomplish our goals.”  

By Kyra Young 

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