Date of Award
Program or Major
Doctor of Philosophy
The appearance and spread of emerging infectious diseases pose a significant threat to wildlife populations worldwide having resulted in declines far surpassing those in recorded history. White-nose syndrome (WNS), caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), is currently one of the most pervasive wildlife diseases, with devastating impacts on several North American bat species. Since its initial detection in 2006, Pd has spread rapidly across North America and population declines at hibernating sites have been severe; however, mortality rates from WNS vary among species. While environmental conditions in hibernacula may be strong predictors of disease impacts on individual species, variation in susceptibility that cannot be explained by environmental conditions alone suggests that other processes potentially play a role in species susceptibility to the disease. This work attempts to help disentangle the influence of the other processes impacting species susceptibility, as well as provide a framework for the conservation of a potentially threatened species. The first chapter specifically addresses the role of the bat skin microbiome in response to Pd presence with results suggesting that microbiome-host interactions may determine the likelihood of infection for Myotis lucifugus, a heavily impacted species. The second chapter assesses the population genetics of a threatened bat species, Myotis septentrionalis, with results uncovering genetic admixture throughout the species range as well as genes putatively under selection in response to WNS. The third chapter provides a framework for the conservation and management of Perimyotis subflavus using what is currently understood about WNS and its impact on this potentially threatened species within the field of molecular biology. Collectively, this work contributes to a field of research that exists to better understand and potentially help mitigate this devastating wildlife disease.
Stark, Meghan, "Responses of Bats to White-Nose Syndrome and Implications for Conservation" (2020). Doctoral Dissertations. 2518.