The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced today that a team of six researchers from Oregon State University and the University of California, Santa Cruz are the winners of a national prize challenge to combat white-nose syndrome (WNS), a lethal wildlife disease that has killed millions of bats in North America and pushed some native bat species to the brink of extinction. The Service's White-nose Syndrome Program launched the challenge last October as part of a multi-faceted funding strategy to develop management tools to fight the disease. A total of 47 proposed solutions were submitted for permanently eradicating, weakening or disarming Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus that causes WNS, thereby improving survival in bat species affected by the disease. A panel of 18 experts from academic institutions, federal agencies and nongovernmental organizations evaluated the challenge entries based on readiness, deployment scale, species susceptibility, ease of use, cost efficiency, efficacy and risk to resources.
In the coming months, the Service will announce a second challenge to offer an additional $80,000, as we continue to pursue novel, innovative solutions that could help us permanently eradicate, weaken, or disarm the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome. The Service plans to hold additional idea prize challenges in the future to invite solvers with a diverse array of knowledge, skills, expertise and perspectives to help the agency tackle today’s toughest conservation issues.