ABSTRACT: Emerging infectious diseases pose a risk to the health of humans and wildlife, and hinder the conservation of biodiversity. Fungal pathogens can present particular challenges to conservation practitioners, because the interactions between fungal pathogens and their vertebrate hosts are not yet well understood. The sublethal effects of fungal infections can also be difficult to monitor or mitigate in free-ranging populations. Several species of bats in North America are threatened by an introduced fungus that thrives in caves, where many bats hibernate. The fungus causes a disease called white-nose syndrome in infected bats, and has killed millions of bats since it was introduced from Europe. My research applies a holistic approach to understand the effects of white-nose syndrome on endangered bat populations. I will discuss how the integration of genomic, physiological, and field methods allows us to monitor the response and possible recovery of bat populations affected by white-nose syndrome, and why the key to helping bat populations recover may have nothing to do with white-nose syndrome itself.
BRIEF BIO: Dr. Christina Davy is an Adjunct Professor at Trent University and a Research Scientist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and a member of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Her research group combines laboratory and field methods to understand how wildlife populations respond to rapidly shifting selective pressures, including habitat fragmentation and emerging infectious diseases. Most of her research focuses on long-lived, threatened taxa such as turtles and bats, and aims to inform the conservation and recovery of species at risk persisting in settled landscapes.