White-Nose Syndrome has devastated the bat populations in the eastern U.S. and Canada, and it is spreading to other areas of the country. The disease has killed more than 5.5 million bats, and the outlook is not great. Its relentless march threatens untold economic and environmental damage on the nation.
But even as White-Nose finds its way into more states in the Midwest and Southeast, new faces turn up to fight it.
Many of these new faces are women.
Director Dan Ashe poses with Ann Froschauer, an advocate for bats. (Photo: USFWS)
I am talking about 7-year-old Miri Parrucci, who asked Santa to help bats hit by White-Nose Syndrome, and Vanderbilt student Ashley Saulsberry, who gave up part of her summer while still in high school to help a bat researcher explore the effects of prescribed fire on roosting habitat of the endangered Indiana bat.
High schooler Frances Sauter from Washington state, which is so far free from White-Nose Syndrome, spent time trying to draw attention to the disease, arguing that “the bats need the help of ordinary laymen like you and me.”
|Miri with a pallid bat specimen. Note: the bats in the photos are taxidermied specimens. Never handle a bat. Photo by USFWS|
As we celebrate Women’s Heritage Month this month, let us salute the women who work so hard on this often depressing project.
Ella Rowan, a wildlife biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, mentored Frances, and she recognized the importance of young women like Frances and Ashley. “Both of these young women are an inspiration and bring glimmers of positivity to what has been over five years of bad news. Thank you, Frances and Ashley!”
I can’t forget the communications leadership of our efforts on White-Nose Syndrome from Ann Froschauer, who recently took on another effort, this time in our Headquarters External Affairs office. But she continues to advocate for bats. I know she is working with a group of Girl Scouts on a bat conservation project.
This is nothing new. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is fortunate that throughout our history women have helped us in our conservation mission.
White-Nose Syndrome will unfortunately continue to kill bats, but I know that our team, along with the new recruits, will give bats every advantage possible to survive the epidemic. Not even Santa could do better.