Thursday, June 4, 2009

Scientists to converge to solve bat disease

Leading experts in the fields of bat physiology, fungal ecology, ecotoxicology, disease and environmental modeling, among others, will gather at a workshop at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, June 29-July 1, at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to explore the disease and to develop solutions to manage it. Representatives from relevant state and federal agencies and other organizations will also be in attendance.

More than a half million bats have died in the last three years as a result of the disease, known as White-Nose Syndrome. The name comes from the distinctive white fungus growing on the muzzles and other body parts of infected bats.

It’s unclear how White-Nose Syndrome spreads.

The fungus forced Great Smoky Mountains National Park to close caves and mines within park boundaries back in April. In that same month, the U.S. Forest Service issued an emergency order closing all caves and mines in 33 states for up to one year while scientists work toward learning more about the disease.

To date, no evidence of the fungus has been found in the Smokies.

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