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.
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.
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.
- 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