Rhode Island researchers have received $500,000 in federal grant money to investigate a fungus that’s killing native bats. The mysterious illness has attacked bats across North America.
Over the last decade, biologists believe an illness known as white-nose syndrome has killed some six-million bats in North America. The fungus appears on the bat’s muzzle. It targets hibernating bats, causing serious infections on their wings, and bodies.
Brown University scientist Dr. Richard Bennett has been leading research with the University of California San Francisco into the fungus.
“We think that that causes the bats to wake up during hibernation, they deplete their fat stores and they basically don’t survive the winter,” said Bennett.
Bennett said this poses a serious problem because bats feed on insects like mosquitoes, helping to keep bug populations at bay.
“One of the biggest worries is in the agricultural industry, it’s estimated that bats as a pest control, save the industry up to about 23 billion dollars.”
Bennett said about seven of the 47 bat species in North America are affected by white nose syndrome. Rhode Island's Department of Environmental Management is also receiving federal funds for its bat monitoring program.
Editor's note: a previous version read as if the university researchers and the DEM scientists received the same grant. While the two groups are both studying bat populations, they received two different grants. The DEM grant was worth about $20,000.