$30,000 WNS GRANT AWARDED BY THE USFWS
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Small Grants Program recently awarded Dr. Chris Cornelison (KSU) and Katrina Morris (Georgia Department of Natural Resources) $30,000 to investigate bat habitats in Georgia bridges and culverts. This research will be conducted by Kelly Lutsch, in support of her masters thesis "Assessing culverts and bridges as roosting habitats for tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) and the prevalence of P. destructans in coastal georgia".
Prior to the arrival of WNS in Georgia, the tricolored bat, Perimyotis subflavus, represented the largest population of cave dwelling bat species in the state. Since the detection of the causative agent, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, in Georgia in 2012 tricolored bat populations have declined by 94%. Recently, potential tricolored bat hibernacula have been identified in the coastal plain region of Georgia, consistent with recent reports from the coastal plain of Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. These sites are primarily roadway-associated culverts. The size and distribution of this population is currently unknown, but could represent a significant remnant population in the southeastern US. Moreover, the WNS status of this population is currently unknown as this area has not been included in swab-based surveys for P. destructans. The lack of knowledge regarding how these animals utilize the landscape, mix with WNS-positive populations in North Georgia or represent an isolated WNS-naive population, presents significant challenges to instituting meaningful conservation protections for this imperiled species. This project seeks to identify and survey likely hibernacula in the coastal plain of Georgia, swab roosts and animals for qPCR analysis of P. destructans burdens. This project will utilize the recommended methodologies for surveys, sampling, qPCR analysis and reporting. This project will result in an improved understanding of the remnant population of tricolored bats in the coastal plain of Georgia by determining their WNS status, abundance and distribution, as well as apprise the potential for these coastal plain culverts to serve as transmission corridors to tricolored bat populations in Florida.