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June 2014 - Issue #16
Providing a conduit between science and the public
Publisher - Ravenswood Media
Editor/Writer - Evin Billington
Writers - David Cottrell, David McGowan
Contributors - Cindy Sandeno, Val Beasley
Layout/design - Ken Redeker
By Evin Billington
Ravenswood Media has created a Spanish translation of its newly-released film “La Batalla por los Murcielagos”.
By David Cottrell
One Health recognizes that the health of humans is closely tied to the health of animals, plants, and ecosystems.
By David Cottrell
The CFMR’s mission is to conduct research on fungi important to forests.
By Cindy Sandeno
With over six million bats killed by White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) in just six years, there is an urgent need to educate the public about the ecological, economic, and intrinsic value of these amazing animals.
Fellow filmmaker, Jacek Lupina, is returning to Poland in June after 25 years in the States.
Alonso Aguirre, director of the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation, invited Carol Meteyer, USGS, and myself for a screening of Battle For Bats.
By David McGowan & Val Beasley
One can speculate on what Silphium could have offered us today. Herotodus referenced it in the 3rd century...
By Tom Trinley
Some fifteen years ago I made the observation that nature programs fell into three main categories...
Battle For Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome
By Evin Billington
Ravenswood Media has created a Spanish translation of its newly-released film “La Batalla por los Murcielagos” which details the threat of White-nose Syndrome, a disease which has been spreading across North America and decimating the bat population.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service provided the funds for the translation, which is narrated by Hector Sepulveda and Fabiola Marolda, instructors at the Instituto de Cervantes in Chicago, a Spanish government language center.
Catherine Hibbard, White-nose Syndrome Public Affairs Specialist for the Fish and Wildlife Service said she felt a Spanish translation of the film was necessary to inform a larger audience about the dangers of WNS.
"We want to make sure that wildlife remains relevant to the American public, and we want to make sure to reach as many people as possible, especially because of the United States’ large Spanish-speaking population," Hibbard said.
Kim Winter, who is in charge of Nature Watch for the USDA Forest Service, did the first round of translations, but it was further polished into more fluid Spanish by Dr. Rodrigo Medellin, professor of ecology at the UNAM, and Abigail Martinez, his graduate student. Rodrigo recently completed a documentary “The Bat Man of Mexico” part of the BBC series Natural World appearing on bbc2 June 13.
Even before the translation, the film had a bit of a Spanish touch with the staccato, djembe drum soundtrack provided by Spanish percussionist Christian Dehugo. The closing music was a composition by Bahman Saless, director of the Boulder Chamber Orchestra, inspired by Smetana’s Ma Vlast.
Once it was time to record the translation, Sepulveda and Marolda tweaked the script one last time as native speakers to give it a more nuanced and natural sound.
While it is possible for WNS to spread to Mexico and Central America, the threat is not likely. The more pressing reason to translate the film was to reach the growing number of Spanish speakers in the U.S. to further educate the public about WNS. Hibbard said she would also like to see the film translated into French because WNS has infected the bat hibernaculums of Quebec.
"Because of the bat population in five Canadian provinces including Quebec, I think it would be prudent to translate the film into French as well," Hibbard said.
The first screening of the Spanish-language version of "Battle for Bats" will be held June 21 at the Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education in Miller, Indiana. The screening is sponsored by the Great Lakes Research and Education Center, part of the National Park Service’s Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.*
By David Cottrell
One Health recognizes that the health of humans is closely tied to the health of animals, plants, and ecosystems. This holistic concept provides a practical approach to health that includes cooperation among professionals who work within human health, animal health, plant health, and ecosystem health communities. Through trans-disciplinary research and communication, the One Health Initiative, a group of health and environmental professionals, has the potential to save the lives of billions of animals and people.
Dr. Bruce Kaplan a veterinarian and the contents editor for the One Health Initiative (OHI) website, monitors U.S. and worldwide activities pertinent to One Health events. The One Health Initiative Autonomous pro bono team is comprised of two physicians (Drs. Laura H. Kahn and Thomas P. Monath), two veterinarians (Drs. Kaplan and Lisa A. Conti) and a PhD research scientist (Dr. Jack Woodall). Dr. Kaplan has seen many positive results from the collaborative approach between health professionals. He explained that coronary artery stents for heart attacks is a good example of how interdisciplinary collaboration can translate into benefits for humans. "The stent was invented in the 1990s by an Australian trained veterinarian/physician, Dr. Gary Roubin and the late physician-radiologist, Dr. Cesare Gianturco. Included among their research team approach was a veterinary pathologist at the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine and a collaborator with Dr. Roubin, Dr. Peter Anderson. Dr. Anderson performed the pathology examinations on intracoronary stents in pigs and these studies were sent to the FDA in order to get the stent approved for human use."
One of five wildlife veterinarians at the National Park Service (NPS) in Fort Collins Colorado, Dr. Kevin Castle, who works on zoonotic diseases for the NPS and is a member of NPS’s Disease Outbreak Investigation Team, sees the One Health concept reflected in his work. "When we have a disease outbreak in the wild, we will bring together medical epidemiologists, veterinarians and environmental scientists, so we had a unique opportunity to work together on the idea of human, environmental, and wildlife health, all under One Health."
Dr. Castle sees many examples of how the health of wildlife and the environment directly overlap with the health of humans and domestic animals. What comes to mind for him is the story of black-footed ferrets. One of the biggest challenges to keeping black-footed ferrets sustained in the wild is Sylvatic Plague, a bacterial disease carried by fleas from rodents. Sylvatic plague has infected black-footed ferrets and devastated prairie dog populations, their essential food source. "So ferrets and their prey, prairie dogs, are susceptible to plague and although plague is rare in humans in North America, it can be found in ground squirrels in or near communities, and could thus potentially infect humans."
Currently, the One Health Coordinator for the National Park Service is Dr. Danielle Buttke. One of Dr. Buttke’s main goals is to get people to think about relationships between the environment and human health. "We are trying to find the best way to keep people safe from infectious disease, and to show they have a role to play in how those diseases might come about." Dr. Buttke was lead author on a February 2014 letter in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association titled "Translating One Health Into Practice".
University of Illinois veterinary, wildlife, and ecological toxicologist, Dr. Val Beasley, has spent a career emphasizing the One Health concept. "Intact ecosystem services keep this planet habitable and sustainable. We need to find ways to feed ourselves and prosper in concert with recovery of natural ecosystems."
Dr. Beasley believes that any increase in behaviors that are destructive to our environment will only lead to more problems. "A current example is the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that’s causing climate change and being dissolved in the ocean due to excessive burning of fossil fuels. A direct effect has been seen in shellfish off the coast of Washington. Because the dissolved CO2 causes acidification, shellfish larvae were unable to precipitate calcium carbonate needed to start the process of producing a shell. So the only way they were able to maintain the shellfish industry in parts of coastal Washington was to grow shellfish in captivity until after shells were already started and then drop them in the water."
Dr. Beasley believes there is hope in having a worldwide implementation of One Health efforts. "There are cooperating groups out there right now across many parts of the world surveying wildlife for influenza and helping producers of domestic animals, like poultry and swine, reduce risks of their animals becoming infected and you see conservation, veterinary, public health, and government working together to improve wildlife health, domestic animal and human health. We need to configure the world so that self-sustaining healthy ecosystems are the norm, so that biodiversity is recovering, so that cities are clean and habitable. Together this vision forms light at the end of the tunnel. An urgent pursuit of One Health is the best way we know of to get there."
Ravenswood Media is working through UC Davis Wildlife Health Center on a documentary about One Health.
By David Cottrell
The CFMR’s mission is to conduct research on fungi important to forests. When White Nose Syndrome started to decimate North American bat populations in 2006, resulting in the loss of nearly 5.7 to 6.7 million bats across eastern portions of the US and Canada, little did Lindner know that he would contribute to the understanding of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the culprit behind the massive bat decline. P. destructans grows in caves that serve as winter bat hibernacula, and causes bats to come out of hibernation early, leading to reduction in body fat and starvation.
Dr. David Blehert, a microbiologist with the US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, has done major work in discovering and characterizing White Nose Syndrome.
"In collaboration with David’s group, we determined that there were many undescribed and unnamed species of fungi, probably at least 30 different species that were interfering with DNA-based detection of the fungus causing the disease,” Lindner said. “Since scientists have only named 5-10% of fungi, there are lots of unnamed species in many places, but the problem we encountered was particularly bad because we know so little about fungi that hang out in caves and on bats."
In 2009, while filming the original Battle for Bats documentary, Ravenswood Media invited Rebecca Ewing, US Forest Service WNS Liason, to be interviewed at the NWHC. While at NWHC, Ewing introduced Lindner and Dr. Jessie Glaeser to the organization and began their collaboration.
"They both knew the folks at NWHC and I think I emailed them some of the research findings we had early on,” Ewing said. “They ended up connecting with colleagues at the NWHC and the rest is history."
Lindner and fellow scientist Glaeser worked with the NWHC in culturing fungi to help identify Pseudogymnoascus destructans. "The fungi in these lineages are slow growing and tend to like cold environments," Glaeser said. "Our best guess is that it’s an introduced species that came from somewhere else. European researchers looked and found the same fungus exists in Europe, but they don’t have these massive die-offs. The bats in Europe appear to have been exposed to this fungus for thousands of years, evolving resistance to this fungus."
US Forest Service Research Wildlife Biologist Dr. Sybill Amelon stresses the importance of bats to ecosystems. "At least 50% of bat species worldwide are in strong enough decline to be of concern. In the case of North America, especially eastern North America, we are seeing that bats populations have dropped at least 30% and up to 90% depending on where you are. Most bats have one pup a year so it takes a long time to overcome this kind of decline."
There are three species of bats strongly affected by WNS: the little brown bat, northern long ear bat and tri-colored bat. Amelon looks for unusual behaviors and studies the health of bats in hibernation, specifically those that are either exposed to the pathogen or already infected.
"We are trying to find a solution, biologically based, that could be inhibitory to the fungus," Amelon said. "In addition to Dan and others, we are also currently working with Georgia State University Microbiologist Dr. Chris Cornelison, a postdoctoral researcher who tested a compound created by a natural soil organism that can stop the growth of the fungus." Amelon tried the compound on live bats. She and her team saw various responses to the infection, depending upon how badly infected the bats were. "Dr. Cornelison’s discovery has had positive results in the lab, but, we are still analyzing the results of tests on live bats hoping this will be one tool to help mitigate the effects of this disease on bat populations," Amelon said.
Amelon said she hopes research will help to bring back these creatures necessary for the survival of ecosystems "Little brown bats have historically been one of the most populous species in the Eastern US. They eat their bodyweight in insects (7 to 10 grams) every night. With a 90% population reduction … that is several tons of insects currently not being eaten."
She also said proper land management combined with public awareness have big roles to play. "Good habitat management will provide the best opportunity for rebounding. Also, the public should be aware that fungus can be carried on shoes, backpacks, and many other things, so they have a strong impact on making sure this doesn’t spread. I think it’s important to see that bats are huge contributors to the health of the planet, and the work we do in cooperation with people at the CFMR and other places will hopefully pay off in the long run."
By Cindy Sandeno
With over six million bats killed by White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) in just six years, there is an urgent need to educate the public about the ecological, economic, and intrinsic value of these amazing animals. As one of the largest public land managers in the world, the U.S. Forest Service depends on bats to help maintain healthy forests and ecosystems and the agency has an important role in engaging the public in bat conservation. But, how do you make people care about something they may not feel connected to and mobilize them to take action?
Recognizing the need to forge connections between the public and bats, the Forest Service began looking at what tools existed to tell the story of WNS. And, surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot available. With a desire to build support for the protection of bats, the Forest Service set on a path to create an educational tool that would be compelling and used widely across the country. The overall goal of creating the film “Battle for Bats” was to increase awareness of the value of bats and the reality that we are losing them to WNS. The film also worked to inspire the public to become involved in bat conservation and the fight against WNS.
To make an environmental film effective, we felt there needed to be high stakes. In this case, we have a whole suite of species that are worth fighting for. Some of these species were once considered “common,” yet their numbers are plummeting and they are at risk of extinction in large parts of their range. With such a vital message, there was a strong need to capture dynamic images that would draw people in and motivate them to become a part of the solution. Ravenswood Media was a natural partner for creating such a broad-reaching film.
The Forest Service has worked with Ravenswood Media on several projects, including the film "Caves: Life Beneath the Forest." Through the creation of this film, Ravenswood Media demonstrated that it understood the unique needs of filming in a cave environment and the protocols necessary for working with bats. This history and experience was essential for completing a film about bats and the WNS crisis.
Due to the escalating complexity of understanding and managing WNS, a highly coordinated effort has been necessary. This collaboration was also needed to complete “Battle for Bats.” The film was completed and distributed with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bat Conservation International, U.S. Geological Survey, and many others. By working together and sharing resources, these partners have helped expand the reach of this educational tool. Screenings have occurred at the D.C. Environmental Film Festival, Geneva Film Festival and the Green Lens Film Festival. And there continue to be more opportunities in the future including screenings at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Notebaert Nature Museum, Evansville Nature Museum, the Wildlife Disease Association and the Wisconsin Bat Festival in October.
Education plays a vital role in providing a strong foundation for continued and improved management of natural resources, especially misunderstood animals such as bats. When creating this film, we wanted to inspire hope and spark the public to take action. Through the distribution of this film and the events that are being organized around it, we hope to build a strong network of citizens that are interested in becoming a part of the solution. Ultimately, the collective wisdom of our citizens, gained through education, will be one of the most compelling and most successful strategies for conserving our bats. I invite you to join in these efforts. Watch the film today and share it with others. Please, join the battle!
March 24, 2014
Alonso Aguirre, director of the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation, invited Carol Meteyer, USGS, and myself for a screening of Battle For Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome at the SMSC campus. The campus is a collection of beautiful modern buildings in a secluded wooded area south of Front Royal, Virginia, one hour’s drive west of DC.
40 students showed up for the presentation and it was very gratifying to see the motivated and intelligent faces of the next generation of conservationists. Included in the audience were a group of Peruvian scientists sponsored by the State Department. It’s the vision of SMSC to be an international learning center for both students and working scientists. The Peruvians were interested in the film because of their work surveying the rich diversity of bats throughout their country.
Carol Meteyer, Deputy Programmer for Environmental Health at USGS, gave an impassioned Power Point on the current state of WNS research. Carol had performed hundreds of necropsies on bats while at the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wisconsin. I was impressed with her talent at presenting complex micro-biological concepts in easy to understand language. She was the star of the evening and mobbed with questions after the screening.
March 25, 2014
The evening began with a reception in the Penthouse of the Main Interior Building. The crowd was a mix of administrative people from several agencies, including directors, and the people they support in the field. It was a wonderful way of saying “Thanks” for all of the work being done to save bats and the environment from an ecological disaster.
The Yates Auditorium is a cavernous theater reminiscent of the movie palaces of the 30’s and 40’s. The Fish and Wildlife Service arranged the event through the Environmental Film Festival in DC. 300 people showed up on a cold and rainy night to watch two films about WNS; Battle For Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome, produced by Ravenswood Media and The Race to Save Pennsylvania’s Bats, produced by Pittsburgh public television. After the screening, a panel of experts discussed the challenges and strategies for mitigating WNS.
The screening was a great way to engage the public about the future of bats. There were plenty of questions from the audience after the panel discussion. WNS is a devastating disease but if the public continues with its support of the government agencies tasked with finding solutions, bats will have a fighting chance of overcoming this crisis.
The US Forest Service held a screening at their headquarters in the Yates Federal Building. I was able to speak with Dan Lindner about his discoveries on the fungus that causes WNS. Dan works at the Forest Service’s Center for Forest Mycology Research and was part of the panel to share their research on WNS after the screening.
By David McGowan & Val Beasley
One can speculate on what Silphium could have offered us today. Herotodus referenced it in the 3rd century BCE as growing in the region of Cyrene, North Africa. Pliny the Elder was so impressed with it, he devoted a chapter to it in his Natural History. It was so important to the Cyrenian economy that they minted its image on their coins.
The Greeks claimed it was a gift from Apollo.
The plant looked like a giant fennel but its precise identity is unknown. It was used both as a pharmaceutical and in the kitchen. Impossible to cultivate, God knows they tried. It grew along a narrow strip of the Mediterranean coast in present day Libya.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of Silphium to the economy and health of the ancient world; food for humans and livestock, resin from the stalk provided relief from coughs, fevers, stomach ailments, aches and pains. But overharvesting and mismanagement of its environment ended Silphium’s reign. By the end of the 1st century AD, there was no more Silphium to be found. The last stalk was traded to Nero for its weight in gold.
The term One Health is new but the concept has been around since we first started to significantly alter our world. Hippocrates stated as much in his Airs, Waters and Places circa 400 BCE. Health refers to the condition of organisms. Health refers to research disciplines that strive to understand the prerequisites of survival and vitality. Health refers to practices that work to maximize wellbeing. The focus of One Health is on understanding, expertise, and prioritized actions to support humans, animals, plants and ecosystems—all at the same time.
Biodiversity provides us much more than things to eat and medicines. Native species provide pollination, fertile soils, erosion control, disease control, water and air purification, and regulation of atmospheric gasses and the global climate. Thus, One Health pursues coordinated protection and improvement of the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and ecosystems.
2000 years ago the Romans focused on saving Silphium from extinction but they lacked the tools to prevent its loss. Today, we have tools to save and improve the health of myriad plants, animals, and our fellow human beings. However, even now, societies still need to fuse economic gain with reverence for life, and to prevent economic gain when life is destroyed. One Health policies can help us escape from the foibles of the Romans. One Health has been at our fingertips the whole time. Let’s use it.
By David McGowan
Fellow filmmaker, Jacek Lupina, is returning to Poland in June after 25 years in the States. We made a lot of film together; spent a year underground for Caves: Life Beneath the Forest, two years in swamps recording frog calls in Why Frogs Call, many months interviewing wildlife veterinarians for Envirovet: Vision for Tomorrow among other projects. Jacek was essential in producing these films. I couldn’t have done it without him.
Jacek is a capable cameraman and an expert climber. He is editing his documentary about Jacek Czyz who accomplished a solo route on El Capitan. It’s our hope that he finds the support to finish the film when he returns to his native Poland.
Jacek leaves a lot of good friends here in Chicago. He will be sorely missed. Good luck!
By Tom Trinley
Environmental History: Addressing Contemporary Issues by Understanding the Past
Some fifteen years ago I made the observation that nature programs fell into three main categories: programs featuring a pristine landscape separated from human interaction; sensationalistic programs featuring the “extreme” behavior of animals (the behavior of which was prompted by the extreme behavior of the show’s host); and paid programming – time slots purchased by environmental groups for fundraising. What was missing in the television landscape was a series that would provide an historical perspective of human interaction with the environment. After all, how could today’s complicated environmental issues be resolved if society was unaware of their root causes.
In order to understand the text of the present, we must flip back the pages of the past. While it can be visually interesting to watch a program featuring a primeval redwood forest, it can be socially beneficial for the viewer to be informed that the debate over the preservation of ancient forests began over 150 years ago between naturalist John Muir and the U.S. Forest Service: a decade and a half filibuster which has left fewer than 3% of old-growth forests https://vimeo.com/56524336 standing today. In recent history, old-growth forests began getting attention in the 1980s surrounding the endangered spotted owl controversy – jobs versus owls. Yet, John Muir was fighting to preserve ancient forests one hundred years before the spotted own became a rallying flag, using legal means to affect a conservation outcome. It is the lens of environmental history that provides viewers pivotal historical moments, providing the opportunity for the viewer to form an objective opinion, which may lead to informed social action.
This historical perspective is applicable to most environmental issues today. A few examples: Present-day research conducted by museums traces its origins to women hobbyist, who collected specimens at the dawn of the natural history museum age; The demise of the Plaines Indian culture reached its conclusion with the eradication of the American Bison, which culminated with the implementation of a revised post-Civil War U.S. military strategy (removing the enemy’s sustenance), expansion of U.S. railroads (promotion of land speculation and tourism), and big game sport hunting (from railroad cars); And the simplified-life experiment of Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond (back when “nature” was just a few miles from a major town).
Using the tools of environmental history: paintings, prose, literature, physical artifacts, diary entries, music, and archival photographs, the varied and diverse cultural stories of our country are told, connecting past to present and offering insights for future environmental solutions.
Tom Trinley is the producer of Notes from the Field, an Emmy-nominated environmental history series of short documentaries, which air on some seventy-five PBS member stations nationally. The programs are available online at www.notesfromthefieldtv.com.
Evin Billington is a rising junior at Ithaca College, where she majors in Documentary Film Studies and Production. Evin is also the Life and Culture Editor of Ithaca College's student newspaper, The Ithacan. This summer, she is working as an intern for Ravenswood Media and searching for documentary ideas.
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Paul H. Douglas Center for Environmental Education
Miller, Indiana 9am – 9pm, June 21, 2014
2430 North Cannon Drive
Chicago, IL 6pm – 9pm, June 24, 2014
411 SE Riverside Dr.
August 23, 2014
University of Edinburgh
August 24-29, 2014
… and more planned for Fall.