Meet A Biologist: Christina Kocer

Christina Kocer
Photo Credit: CT DEEP

Meet Christina Kocer, the White-Nose Syndrome National Assistant Coordinator (and Northeast Regional Coordinator) for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Christina works with BATS! Specifically, she works with people, bats, and a newly discovered disease called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). I asked her a few questions about her job; her answers are in blue text.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is it that you do?

As a WNS coordinator, I work closely with state, federal, and academic institutions, as well as non-governmental partners involved with WNS research and response, specifically those within the 13 states that make up the northeast region. I coordinate research, assist in the development of protocols, management plans, as well as research priorities, procedures, and policies. I review research proposals and coordinate contracting and grant funding processes and paperwork. I often facilitate conference calls with state agency and other agency biologists to discuss regional concerns, needs, and issues. I also respond to researcher and public inquiries about bats and WNS investigations. I assist agency biologists with WNS surveillance and monitoring in the field, including conducting hibernacula and maternity roost surveys.

inspecting a wing
Photo credit: MDC/Bruce Schuette Tri-Colored Bat with WNS (white fluffy stuff on its nose)

 

What’s the most exciting part of your job?

WNS is a newly emergent disease of hibernating bats that has resulted in an unprecidented population declines within a very short amount of time. It is an extremely challenging, frustrating, and fascinating problem that quickly brought together a wide range of state and federal agency biologists, university researchers,and non-governmental organizations from around the world to address this wildlife crisis. The diversity of expertise needed, from mycologists [scientists who study fungus] to physiologists and wildlife biologists to cavers, has been incredible. It is exciting to be a part of this response that is constantly changing and evolving with new research findings. Great progress has been made in understanding this complicated disease in very such a short amount of time.

 

Little Brown Bat
Photo Credit: CT DEEP Little Brown Bat with wing ID band

Why study bats?

Bats are typically misunderstood and tend to envoke fear in the public however, these fears are often unfounded. Bats are very beneficial creatures that need to be protected, and not feared. They are the primary predator of night-flying insects, including many agricultural pests. WNS has decimated populations of these animals and they need our protection. One of the few positive things that has come out of WNS is a new and renewed interest in bats by the public as a result of expanded education and outreach about these animals and WNS.

 

 

Christina Kocer
Photo Credit: USFWS Christina measuring bat wing

Bat Facts:

  • An estimated 5.7-6.7 MILLION bats have died as a result of White-Nose Syndrome. Mortality rates vary by site and species, but have approached 100% in some areas for some species.
  • WNS has been confirmed in 19 states (including North Carolina) and 4 Canadian Provinces. The fungus that causes WNS, Geomyces destructans, has been detected in 2 additional states.

Questions for Christina? Ask in the comments section and I’ll pass them along to her.

Want to learn more about White-Nose Syndrome? Check out the WNS website at http://www.WhiteNoseSyndrome.org 

5 responses to Meet A Biologist: Christina Kocer

  1. Avatar
    dj says:

    Thank you for posting this….I can’t imagine not seeing neighborhood bats at twilight and dawn because of WNS.

  2. Sarah Van de Berg
    Sarah Van de Berg says:

    You’re welcome! If you have any questions (even if they’re silly), just ask. There are a lot of neighborhoods that no longer have bats due to WNS, and that means more mosquitoes and moths for us people to deal with!

  3. Avatar
    Alice Lucas says:

    just before midnight Dec 31,2013 I had an unexpected visitor in the form of a bat in my bed room. I was very surprised thinking that bats hibernated all winter.We usually get at least one bat in the house every year but never in winter. Should I be concerned or will It find its way out? We generally leave the doors open until we see them leave but it is way too cold now in Allegheny County, Western Pa. Never fear, I will not touch it!

    • Sherry Samuels
      Sherry Samuels says:

      Good for you to be cautious around these amazing creatures. Bats, and any animals, may very well need assistance finding their way back out of tricky situations. Bats do hibernate, but some are awoken. This typically does not bode well for the individual that wakes too soon.

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