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Platteville native works on bat white-nose syndrome
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NEWTOWN SQUARE, Pa. — A team of scientists led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service was honored for research that is seeking to improve bats’ odds of surviving White-nose Syndrome by investigating bats’ migratory patterns, habitat use and ability to fight the disease itself. 

The principal investigator of the partnership was Platteville native Deahn Donner, a project leader/ecologist with the Forest Service Northern Research Station in Rhinelander.

“White-nose Syndrome is as complicated as it is devastating,” said Donner. “It is a problem that has to be attacked from many angles and on many scales.”

USDA Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell presided over the 2016 Wings Across the Americas Conservation Awards ceremony, which was held as part of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Pittsburgh, and honored outstanding work in the conservation of birds, bats, butterflies and dragonflies. Tidwell presented the research partnership award to a team that includes researchers from the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and Forest Products Laboratory as well as State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, state natural resource agencies in Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, and three national forests. The partnership takes a holistic approach to studying the effects of WNS and aims to find ways to help bats cope with the disease, from studying whether microbes on their wings are helping build immunity to WNS to identifying where land managers might improve habitat so migrating bats are healthier and more resilient to the disease.

Donner earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in wildlife ecology from UW–Stevens Point, and a Ph.D. in environmental studies from UW–Madison.

The study plan for “Multi-scale Landscape Approach for Studying the Secondary Effects of White-nose Syndrome in Bats of the Upper Midwest” was developed by Donner with co-principal investigators Paula Marquardt, a Northern Research Station population geneticist in Rhinelander, and Brian Heeringa, a wildlife biologist specializing in bats who splits his time between the Chequamegon–Nicolet National Forest and the Northern Research Station in Rhinelander.

“We accomplish more when we join forces, and this research team truly exemplifies the power of collaboration in science and conservation,” said Tony Ferguson, Acting Director of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory.

The research partnership includes Daniel Lindner, Jon Palmer and Michelle Jusino of the Forest Products Laboratory; Dan Eklund of the Chequamegon–Nicolet National Forest; Tim Catton of the Superior National Forest; Kari Kirshbaum of the Chippewa National Forest; Jacquelyn Frair and Ben Prom of State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry; J. Paul White and Jennifer Redell of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Bill Scullon of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Mike Scafini of the Pennsylvania Game Commission; Alyssa Bennett of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department; and Carl Herzog of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Wings Across the Americas is sponsored by USDA Forest Service programs including the National Forest System, State & Private Forestry, Research & Development and International Programs. Wings Across the Americas works with a wide range of partners in the United States and overseas to conserve habitats and populations of birds, bats, butterflies, and dragonflies. Other awards honor conservation efforts connected to bats, butterflies and dragonflies.