Christopher Richardson receives $10,000 grant to study bats and white-nose syndrome

The Morris Animal Foundation has awarded a $10,000 grant to researcher Christopher Richardson to study the effect of white-nose syndrome on little brown myotis bats. Richardson is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he received a bachelor of science degree, and is a faculty member of Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

White-nose syndrome has devastated countless populations of hibernating bats in eastern North America. Richardson’s study will address how the disease affects energy use, immune response and the impact on reproduction of the little brown bat, one of the species hit hardest by the disease. Less than 10 percent of a once-robust population has survived the outbreak.

“In some places they’re coming back, they’re reproducing, they’re surviving, but other colonies are not doing so well,” said Richardson, a longtime faculty member. “The question is why.”

To answer that, Richardson will collaborate with Northern Arizona University faculty Jeff Foster and University of New Hampshire doctoral candidate Katherine Ineson on the project. The three will study how the remaining little brown bat populations in Massachusetts and New Hampshire respond to and recover from the syndrome.

On the year-long project, Richardson will assess how the fungus affects female bats, particularly during vulnerable periods of pregnancy and lactation with the goal of turning his research into a predictive model that could be used to gauge the overall health of remnant colonies, assess their long-term ability to recover from the epidemic and inform management strategies to help more bats survive and thrive. Richardson hopes the results of this study will lead to further opportunities to research and aid in the recovery of the bat population.