When we go spelunking or watch Halloween movies, we think about bats.
Some of our scientists in biology think about bats more than the average human.
Dr. Tom Tomasi and two of his graduate students went to the North American Society for Bat Research (NASBR) conference Oct. 24-27 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
About their research
All three presenters focus on white-nose syndrome (WNS) in bats.
“WNS is caused by a skin fungus that only grows on hibernating bats,” Tomasi said. “Because these bats help control pest insects, the consequences of this bat mortality could be very large.”
Tomasi presented about Mexican free-tailed bats and how they respond to the fungus that causes WNS.
Keslie Naffa-Wack presented on metabolic rate and body temperature of hibernating big brown bats that are exposed to the fungus. This is a species that seems resistant.
Briana Anderson presented her thesis work. She made cell cultures of wing cells and exposed them to the fungus that causes WNS. She wanted to see what genes were activated by the exposure. She used four different species. Two species seem resistant, and two were from species who die from WNS.
Anderson was awarded the White-Nose Syndrome Research Award. This was an award for the most impressive student presentation on WNS.
“The reason there is an award in this category is that WNS is a major epidemic, perhaps having killed 10 million bats for far in North America since it started in 2006,” Tomasi said.
About the conference
Tomasi was excited to meet and reconnect with new and old collaborators. Networking is important for both established faculty and students, Tomasi stresses.
There were also several MSU biology alumni presenting. Students were able to meet them and network.
“Alumni are future collaborators, and meeting at conferences keeps the relationship fresh,” Tomasi said. “It is also nice for current student to meet past MSU students to see that it is possible to succeed in this career field. Alumni can give lots of advice and mentoring.”
As for Tomasi’s favorite part, it’s seeing younger scientists with the same love of bats he has.
“I loved sharing and having discussions with the young scientists,” Tomasi said. “In this case, there were a lot of graduate students there from Mexican universities, and they have the same passion for studying bats as us older bat biologists.”