BY CHRIS POWERS
SC Staff Writer
Dr. Whidden, a professor of East Stroudsburg University’s biology department, specializes in small mammals, and he especially enjoys working with bats.
Dr. Whidden’s interest in bats was sparked by some of the relevant environmental concerns that have come to light in recent years.
Local wind turbines cause one of these concerns. These sources of green energy kill migratory bats in the thousands. Dr. Whidden works with graduate and undergraduate researchers at ESU to try and shed light on this issue.
Wind turbines can be altered to reduce their impact on bat populations.
“A slight change in operating procedure would result in a cut of fatalities from two thirds to three quarters,” Said Dr. Whidden.
Most Corporations responsible for the wind turbines have not made the implementations to their turbines.
A second environmental concern was first identified by an ESU student in a national park outside of Coppermine Cave.
This concern is a fungal disease in bats called White Nose Syndrome, which many scientists believe was brought to the US from cave divers in Europe.
This fungus grows on the bats, disrupts hibernation, and has been one cause to the population decline of bats in recent years.
There is not much that can be done about White Nose Syndrome, besides reducing other stress factors for the bats.
The elimination of stress factors has been shown to boost survivability for those bats already resistant to White Nose Syndrome.
Dr. Whidden works with many local agencies to collect data on the populations of local bats and develops plans for management that will help preserve these populations.
Because of the white nose syndrome and the fatalities due to the wind turbines, Dr. Whidden’s opinion on the outlook for local bats is “bleak.”
A significant drop in the local bat populations would create an imbalance in the biodiversity of our area. Bats play an important role in our local ecology, and a large reduction in their population could change the entire ecosystem in unpredictable ways.
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