By Bonnie Chasteen
Each month, we highlight research MDC uses to improve fish, forest, and wildlife management.
MDC Resource Scientist Kathryn Bulliner held a juvenile Indiana bat up to her headlamp to check it for the tell-tale signs of white-nose syndrome (WNS) — a powdery white fungus along the young bat’s muzzle and wings.
“This disease is killing bats throughout North America, including federally endangered Indiana bats,” she said.
In 2019, Bulliner began field work with a team of research partners to determine if current forest management practices meet the Indiana bat’s summer habitat needs. “Indiana bats spend their winters hibernating in caves and mines, many of which are infected with the WNS fungus,” she said, “But in summer, they migrate to upland forests like those here in north-central and northeast Missouri.”
Bulliner said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has restrictive guidance for timber harvest in areas where Indiana bats are known to summer. “For years the service and other conservation partners have wanted to test the effects of these forest practices on Indiana bats,” she said. “Knowing what works and what doesn’t will help managers plan and conduct their forest management practices with more confidence. And, of course, their efforts will be better for the bats, which need the best summer habitat we can provide.”
Bulliner said researchers believe that good summer habitat can strengthen Indiana bats against the pressures of WNS during hibernation, thereby supporting the endangered species’ overall restoration efforts.
At selected Missouri conservation areas, Bulliner’s team is using several different sampling techniques to measure Indiana bat response to forest management.
“By assessing various metrics over the entire course of the eight-year study, we will directly assess colony persistence relative to management activities,” Bulliner said.
Partners: Indiana State University, Missouri Department of Conservation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Missouri
Assess bats’ response to forest-management on three pairs of conservation areas: Rebel’s Cove and Mineral Hills; Indian Hills and Atlanta; Charlie Heath and Hidden Hollow
2019–2021 Pre-treatment assessment of bat populations and habitat use 2022–2024 Prescribed forest management treatments2025–2027 Posttreatment assessment
Results will validate or improve forest management guidelines for maternal Indiana bat colonies throughout the 22-state range
Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Staff Writer - Bonnie Chasteen
Staff Writer - Heather Feeler
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Art Director - Cliff White
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Les Fortenberry
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation - Laura Scheuler