Potential for peripheral populations to mitigate core extinctions: bats and white nose syndrome. (Visiting Scholar)
White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a devastating disease characterized by high mortality of cave-hibernating bats. WNS-affected bat species hibernate during the winter, and mortality is associated with hibernation because of low temperature and high humidity requirements for the WNS-associated fungus (Geomyces destructans). Peripheral populations of WNS-affected bat species, especially those that do not hibernate, may not be as impacted by WNS as core populations. If core and peripheral populations of bats differ in behavior and physiology, peripheral populations may prevent species extinction from WNS. Understanding how behavior and physiology vary across space in relation to the environment (climatic patterns and current/historic land use patterns) is essential to understanding the potential of peripheral WNS-affected species. Towards this end, an assessment of ecological and evolutionary differences between core and peripheral populations in a spatially-explicit framework must be completed. The goal of this project is to determine with ecological niche modeling (ENM), the current and future probability that peripheral populations will mitigate species extinction in WNS-affected bat species. Aims of this proposal are to: 1. predict the spread of WNS using ENM to identify regions where bats should have low susceptibility to WNS and high viability; 2. determine the behavioral, physiological, and life history differences between peripheral and core populations of eastern US bat species; and 3. predict the location and distributional limits of peripheral and core populations of eastern US bat species.