Development of a White-nose Syndrome (WNS) Disease Tracking System

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a bat with white nose syndrome hangs in a cave
A bat with white nose syndrome hangs in a cave

During the winter of 2006-2007, an affliction of unknown origin dubbed “White-Nose Syndrome” (WNS) began devastating colonies of hibernating bats around Albany, New York. Since then, WNS has rapidly spread, infecting bats in 16 states and 4 provinces of Canada. This has raised alarms in the resource management community, where efforts are now underway to coordinate and manage WNS response on a continental scale. One need identified by resource management agencies is the ability to track and share information regarding bat specimens (for example, carcasses and tissues) submitted for WNS verification, in order to better understand WNS's movement and distribution across the landscape. FORT scientists are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a single, secure, Web-based system to support implementation of common methodologies and protocols across agencies and organizations. This geospatially oriented data management system will track specimens from the point of collection through analysis by centralizing all partner data in a single repository and enforcing the approved data integrity standards, and by allowing users to enter, verify, and report on their data remotely using a secure internet connection. In this way, the WNS disease tracking system will provide wildlife managers and researchers with near real-time access to WNS data, which they can use to evaluate seasonality of disease effects, identify WNS distribution patterns through geospatial analyses, and forecast potential risk areas.