Bats play a critical role in the United States in controlling agricultural, forest, and human pests. Recent studies estimate that the pesticide services of bats are worth more than $1 billion annually to the U.S. corn industry alone, and more than $3 billion annually to all agricultural production.
Unfortunately, more than six million bats have died over the past decade from the spread of white-nose syndrome disease (WNS). In some sites where WNS has been detected, up to 100 percent of bats have disappeared. Since signs of the disease were first observed in New York in 2006, WNS has spread rapidly from the Northeast to the Midwest, Southeast, and eastern Canada and in the spring of 2016 was found in Washington state.
WNS is caused by a cold-loving fungus that attacks hibernating bats. More than half of the bat species in the United States and Canada hibernate to survive the winter and are potentially susceptible to the disease. Without a solution to this devastating problem, several bat species may be in danger of extinction.
The Bats for the Future Fund was launched in the fall of 2016 to provide grant funding in order to advance field treatments and management tools that provide the greatest potential to prevent exposure of bats to Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), the fungal pathogen that causes WNS, and improve survival from WNS; implement field treatments, management tools, and conservation strategies that help WNS-affected bat populations recover and rebound from the impacts of WNS; and support innovative and collaborative research leading to the development and deployment of treatments and management tools for WNS that will perpetuate viable populations of bats. Major funding for the Bats for the Future Fund is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with additional funding from the U.S. Forest Service, Southern Company and the Avangrid Foundation.
Project objectives should vary depending on the epidemiological focus of the proposed work as it relates to the spread of Pd and WNS. Applicants should review Defeating White-Nose Syndrome: A Vision for the Future from the interagency White-nose Syndrome Steering Committee, which outlines a strategic plan to defeat the disease and describes a regional strategy with disease management options. (Applicants should reference descriptions of the different management areas in this document.)
Applicants are encouraged to consider cross-disciplinary and innovative approaches to solving challenges associated with deployment and management. Collaborations (e.g., across disciplines, countries, academic institutions, agencies, etc.) that leverage the best thinking may include modern design systems like makerspaces or hackathons.
Projects may include but are not limited to biological or chemical controls, which include but are not limited to antimicrobial or antifungal agents, antagonistic pathogens (mycoviruses), probiotics, bacteria, or fungi that are capable of reducing, inhibiting, or preventing the growth and/or establishment of Pd; vaccines or other immune-modulating techniques to reduce host susceptibility to WNS; genetic/genomic manipulations, or other molecular technologies that reduce Pd’s ability to proliferate, survive, spread, and/or infect bats; the development and implementation of habitat modification and enhancement strategies that result in guidance or direct action to improve survival of WNS-affected bats; the development of scalable treatment delivery system; the incorporation of non-target effects of treatments to organisms and the environment; and/or the testing of field efficacy and feasibility across varying environmental and biological settings or using treatment agents and/or management strategies in combination or under varying conditions.
Grants requests must be greater than $50,000 but no more than $250,000; higher amounts will be considered for projects seeking to deploy treatments and management strategies on a widespread basis within the grant period of performance. Applicants contemplating requesting more than $250,000 should contact NFWF staff in advance for guidance.
Eligible applicants include nonprofit organizations, federal government agencies, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, tribal entities, research and educational institutions, and for-profit entities. Ineligible applicants include unincorporated individuals.
NFWF will host an informational webinar on Friday, July 12, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET. (Registration required.) Proposals are due Thursday, September 19, 2019, at 11:59 p.m.
See the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation website for a complete program description, evaluation criteria, application instructions and an application timeline, and additional information.