Date of Award

12-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Joseph E. Duchamp, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Jeffrey L. Larkin, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Josiah H. Townsend, Ph.D.

Abstract

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a fatal fungal infection affecting bats in North America, having caused the death of over one million bats since its discovery in 2006 and threatening at least one species with regional extinction. The spread of WNS through Pennsylvania has been staggered in that the eastern hibernacula have experienced longer exposure than in the west. However, it is unclear if mortality observed in these areas translates to lowered summer bat activity. I used maximum entropy modeling and treated WNS as a habitat variable to determine how exposure to WNS has changed summer bat communities. Using a combination of mist netting and acoustic sampling in 12 sites spanning the state, total bat activity appeared greater in the west (1,458 call minutes) versus the east (1,093 call minutes). Species-specific distribution models indicated that greater bat activity was associated with types of bedrock geology and greater forest area within a 10 km2 landscape. Among cave bats, activity of little brown and Indiana bats had the greatest negative relationship to WNS risk. I demonstrated the utility of using standardized methods and ecological niche modeling to identify variables relevant to summer bat activity; as WNS continues to infect hibernacula, focus on improving survivorship in the active season is increasingly imperative.

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