News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Don Drumm Studios

Hennes Paynter Communications

NOCHE


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment




Exploradio: The edge of extinction
A team of researchers and wildlife officials in Ohio are fighting an epidemic that threatens to wipe out bats in the Eastern U.S.
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
Summit MetroParks is blocking several caves at Liberty Park in Twinsburg with steel gates. A barrier also blocks Ice Box cave at Virginia Kendall park. Officials fear that White Nose Syndrome can be spread by contaminated soil on hikers' shoes.
Courtesy of Jeff St.Clair
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Bats are under siege.  A killer fungus has wiped out 90% of bats in parts of the Eastern U.S. and this year the epidemic hit Ohio.  Researchers and wildlife officials here are scrambling to save the remaining bats.

In this week’s Exploradio, WKSU’s Jeff St.Clair reports from the front-lines in the fight against White Nose Syndrome.

Exploradio: The Edge of Extinction

Other options:
MP3 Download (3:32)


(Click image for larger view.)

Why bats matter
First, we need to get past the 'ick' factor with bats. 

  • They do not turn into vampires.
  • They rarely fly into bouffant hairdos.
  • They do not drink your blood, except in parts of the Brazilian rain forest.

What bats do, though, is consume a lot of bugs. Hazel Barton, a researcher at the University of Akron, says a single bat can eat 3,600 hundred insects in a night.  She says the epidemic wiping out bats in the Eastern U.S. is radically changing our ecosystems by the removal of these important insect predators.  

She says the loss of 6.5 million bats from the white nose epidemic, "translates to a hundred billion more insects this year than we would have had if those bats were still alive.”

Bats eat insects that attack crops - moths whose caterpillars feed on fruit trees, beetles whose larva eat soybeans or potatoes … bats eat disease carrying mosquitoes.  The loss of bats could cost billions in lost crops and increased use of pesticides.  The looming extinction of several bat species is not just an ecological tragedy; it could be catastrophic to our food growing economy. 

The epidemic spreads 
White nose syndrome first appeared in 2006 in a cave in New York. It is believed to have arrived from Europe on the sole of a hiker’s boot.  Then infected bats spread the fungus along the Atlantic seaboard, north to Ontario, south to the Smoky Mountains, and west all the way to Missouri, leaving millions of dead bats in its wake.  

That’s why a crew is deep in the woods at Liberty MetroPark in Twinsburg welding steel bars across the mouth of a narrow cave.  Tony Morgan and Ryan Boyes bend steel around the contours of a slit cave that dives deep into a sandstone cliff.

The bars are spaced wide enough for bats to fly through, but prevent people from going inside and tracking out invisible spores of the deadly fungus. 

Mike Johnson, chief of wildlife for Summit Metroparks, directs the project.  He says the cave shelters tens of thousands of hibernating bats from four species -  big brown, little brown, tri-color, and northern long-eared bats.  Like a blast of air conditioning, cool air from deep inside the cliff hits the late summer heat.   

The white nose fungus can only live in the cool conditions of caves like this one, and on the chilled bodies of hibernating bats. 

Hope from the survivors
Last year’s mild weather allowed most bats to survive despite the arrival of White Nose Syndrome.  But Johnson is not optimistic about this season.  He says out of those tens of thousands, even one-hundred thousand hibernating bats,"we’re expecting 95% of them to die.”

He says the gates will keep hikers from disturbing the few bats that may survive.  And it’s those few survivors that scientists intend to study.  Hazel Barton and her team at the University of Akron will crawl through a small hole in the bat gate this winter to sample sleeping bats.  They’re hoping to isolate compounds on the surviving bats’ skin that may hold clues to a natural immunity to the fungus, and perhaps lead to a cure.  But for now the plan is to slow the spread of the disease, and the bat gates may be their best hope. 

I’m Jeff St.Clair with this week’s Exploradio.   


Related WKSU Stories

Exploradio - The march of the bat killer
Monday, January 23, 2012

Listener Comments:

I really hope you guys can stop this spread! Long live the BATS!


Posted by: Adriana (Portugal) on August 28, 2012 4:08AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

Exploradio: Avoiding the 'acting-white' trap
Growing-up black and being black should not determine that you will not speak well or will not be a high achiever in your goals in life.But society te nds to la...

Charter-school supporters to rally at Statehouse
I am on the bus now headed to the rally. Horizon is an excellent school. My son is is 7 th grade. The teachers and administrators are top notch and spend so m...

Former Nursing Home Land Added to Parks
In addition, LED technology also plays a very important role in advertising- LED placard is very, very useful for shop owners.

Ohio Supreme Court hears arguments on school funding
That's not true. Other school districts HAVE followed this law and done this. Oakhills is one of them and how they were able to provide technology for their s...

Death and beauty at Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art
What a disgusting story to air at lunch time.

Ohio Supreme Court grills attorneys on flooding and million-dollar fixes
Perhaps the State of Ohio should take the lead and implement state wide water shed districts that would collect minimum fees. The funds could then be distribute...

More Ohio schools are adding STEM + arts to come up with STEAM
STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Not Education! Your first sentence and intro to this article is incorrect. Please correct this inaccuracy....

Body found in Brecksville park identified as Hillary Sharma
When will we learn the cause of death? We live here and if there's foul play, we have a right to know.

FitzGerald isn't giving up, but many Stark voters are worried, wary and weary
SB5 stands for "Snow Ball 5" because voters have about a snow ball's chance of remembering what it was.

Columbus groups are trying to pass a Bill of Rights to combat fracking
Its about time we make a stand against the criminal actions of an entire Indsutry.

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University