UWinnipeg has a Golden Batgirl

Kristin JonassonWINNIPEG, MB – UWinnipeg has a new Batgirl, Kristin Jonasson, a recent Gold Medal Graduate in Biology who has just published in PLoS ONE showing that Female Bats are Thrifty With Fat, based on research done for her Master of Science (MSc) thesis (see article link at http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.002106). `PLoS ONE‘ is a high impact, open-access journal for the communication of all peer-reviewed scientific and medical research. One of its missions is to make science accessible to educators and to the public.

“This is a great time to be studying at The University of Winnipeg and I’m really glad these results have been published as a fresh graduate,” expressed Jonasson. “UWinnipeg gave me the opportunity to do research that tackles curiosity questions about hibernating mammals while also shedding light on White-Nose Syndrome or WNS, this terrible disease that is destroying bat populations at an incredible rate and having it published is very exciting.”

“Kristin’s findings are important for understanding WNS,” says Dr. Craig Willis, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Winnipeg, Jonasson’s thesis advisor and co-author on the study. “The Manitoba bats we studied aren’t affected yet but WNS has utterly devastated populations of little brown bats in eastern North America leading to perhaps the fastest declines of wildlife in recorded history.”

The disease is named for a cold-tolerant fungus that grows in the skin of the wings and faces of the bats but the cause of death appears to be starvation. “We still don’t fully understand what’s happening to bats with WNS but affected individuals seem to spend their fat too quickly during hibernation. The thriftiness of healthy female bats that Kristin has shown may increase their chances of surviving WNS if they can use the extra fat set aside for reproduction to prevent starvation. Males, with smaller fat reserves to start with and a tendency to burn through this fat more quickly, could be less likely to make it through the winter,” says Willis.

Kristin Jonasson
Jonasson obtained a B.Sc. in Zoology from the University of Calgary in 2008. She was one of the first cohort of MSc students in Biosciences, Technology and Policy at The University of Winnipeg and was awarded the Governor General’s Gold Medal as The University of Winnipeg’s top graduate student at Spring Convocation this year. After conducting research that shed important new light on hibernation in bats she is switching gears to some extent and will begin her PhD at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, studying the physiology of migration in this same group of fascinating mammals.

To learn more about this and other important conservation issues affecting bats, and what you can do to help, come hear Dr. Craig Willis speak at Fort Whyte Alive, this Sunday, June 26, 2011 at 2:30 pm. For more details see: http://www.fortwhyte.org/calendar/279/1309064400

Bats need your help!

To help bats with WNS we need your help to protect and enhance their summer habitat and increase their body weight before winter. Fatter bats will increase their survival rate. You can help by protecting natural forest habitat and old trees (which bats roost in), putting up bat houses and using humane methods to exclude bats from buildings.

In addition, bats with WNS often behave strangely in winter and spring, and reports from the public have been critical for early detection of the disease. If you observe bats flying or roosting outside anytime during winter please immediately contact Manitoba Conservation (or your provincial/state equivalent if outside Manitoba) or contact Dr. Willis and his team at the Manitoba Bat Blitz by email at mbbatblitz@hotmail.com.



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Naniece Ibrahim, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg

P: 204.988.7130, E: n.ibrahim@uwinnipeg.ca


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