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Determining the Drivers of Species and Population Extinction in the Emerging Infectious Disease of Bats, White-Nose Syndrome

  • Author(s): Langwig, Kate Elizabeth
  • Advisor(s): Kilpatrick, A. Marm
  • Frick, Winifred F.
  • et al.
Abstract

Emerging infectious diseases pose a key threat to wildlife, and the number of disease

emergence events is increasing. Despite the importance of disease in wildlife

conservation, understanding the drivers of population and species extinction from

disease has not been tested in an empirical framework. My research incorporates

empirical and theoretical approaches to understand factors that influence pathogen

transmission and disease impacts. Here, we focus on the emerging fungal disease of

bats, white-nose syndrome, which has caused widespread declines in bat populations

across Eastern North America. Our findings highlight the importance of social

behavior, microclimate conditions, and seasonality in driving impacts from this

disease. We also identify a species, the Northern long-eared bat, which is likely to go

extinct if rapid management action is not taken. These data provide critical

information needed to manage wildlife disease epidemics, enabling management

action prior to species extinction.

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