Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fungal Communities in Bats at Risk of White-Nose Syndrome in Caves and Mines in Southern Illinois

Indiana bat with white-nosed syndrome

Tabitha Williams
     WIU graduate student, Tabitha Williams recently conducted a study in an attempt to identify, characterize and compare psychrophilic fungal communities associated with seven different bat species commonly found in southern Illinois.  The purpose of the study is to provide important base-line data for bats, which live in caves that have not yet been infected with a relatively new and emerging fungus Geomyces destructans, which causes white-nose syndrome.  White-nose syndrome infects hibernating bats and has been responsible for major declines of bat populations in eastern North America due to an increase in frequency of arousals from torpor during hibernation leading to depletion of the fat reserves and subsequent starvation.  Using the genetic ITS rDNA barcode, fungal communities in southern Illinois were found to be dominated mostly by Ascomycota, followed by Zygomycota, and Basidomycota.  Nineteen isolates were identified as Geomyces strains with a high genetic similarity to G. destructans.   Most studies only examine bats in caves after they have been infected with G. destructans, but it is important to understand fungal community structure before bats are infected to provide a framework for how communities are altered after infection.  This study was conducted in collaboration with Robert McCleery of the University of Florida and Rod McClanahan of the United States Forest Service, Shawnee National Forest and under the guidance and and mentorship of Tabitha’s graduate advisor, Andrea Porras-Alfaro.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Forest Bee Diversity in Relation to Habitat and Vertical Stratification

Augochlora pura, an abundant species

       Many studies in tropical rain forests have shown that insect diversity in the canopy can differ markedly from diversity in the understory.  Surprisingly, relatively few studies have explored such diversity in temperate deciduous forests.  WIU graduate student, Jared Ruholl recently completed a study investigating differences in bee species composition between the canopy and in the understory and between early successional and oak/hickory Midwestern forest habitats.  He and his collaborator James Zweep, an undergraduate honors student,  collected 4,611 bee specimens comprised of 76 species.  Agapostemon virescens, Lasioglossum macoupinense, and L. smilacinae were associated with oak’/hickory understory, while Certina calcarata and L. versatum were associated with oak/hickory canopy.  This study is the first to document that bee diversity in Midwestern deciduous forests exhibits substantial spatial variation.  This study was conducted under the guidance and mentorship of Jared’s graduate advisor, Dr. Kenneth McCravy.
Jared Ruholl working with two  undergraduate students, Angela Walker (left) and Jamela Thompson (right)