Sixth Annual Long Island Natural History Conference
















Bat Conservation on Long Island and the Case of the Northern Long-eared Bat (Myotis septentrionalis)
Samantha Hoff, NYSDEC and University at Albany

Since the arrival of white-nose syndrome (WNS), populations of northern long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis, MYSE) have plummetted, with hibernacula surveys in New York showing a 99% decrease. Surprisingly, current capture rates on Long Island remain similar to statewide pre-WNS numbers, and acoustic detection rates indicate a more robust population. Preliminary evidence suggests that MYSE are also persisting in additional coastal areas of New England, offering a source of hope for this federally threatened species.

We propose that previously undocumented hibernation behaviors allow for host survival despite exposure to the causative fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), by reducing disease exposure and/or impact. Our research aims to investigate these mechanisms through multiple approaches: radio-tracking during the fall to assess hibernation behavior and timing, acoustic surveys to document distribution and activity levels, and sampling to investigate fungal prevalence, load, and genetic structure of coastal MYSE. 2017 served as a pilot season for the project when we successfully sampled 50 acoustic sites across Suffolk County, and tracked 5 bats during the fall swarm season to identify at least one hibernacula. This study will be expanded next fall to support greater netting and tracking effort, as our preliminary results indicate the potential to learn vital information about the behavior of this species. Data gathered from these objectives will supply managers with the information needed to promote survival of these remnant populations and potentially, this species, by improving strategies for protecting important habitats.

Samantha has been working for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for the past 5 years, mostly dealing with bat conservation issues. After seeing the drastic effects from white-nose syndrome firsthand, this experience spurred her interest in conducting novel research on the disease and its effects on New York’s bat populations. As a Ph.D. student in SUNY Albany’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program, she is studying the ecology of the northern long-eared bat and investigating mechanisms that may allow remnant populations to persist in the face of this devastating disease.