MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — University of Minnesota scientists and design students are teaming up to make bat houses they hope can help raise awareness about the deadly disease that is wiping them out.
Design resident Kelly Munson developed the bat house research project, which she is hoping can “rebrand” the bat and help save it.
Bats are facing a deadly disease called White Nose Syndrome across the eastern part of the United States.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources first discovered White Nose Syndrome in Minnesota last year, and the disease continues to spread west.
As many as six Minnesota counties now have White Nose Syndrome cases, and the disease has cut the population of the bats by as much as 80 percent in many parts of the country.
Munson and Professor Christine Salomon are part of the team helping raise awareness about the state of bats in Minnesota.
“One of the most important things we can do is protect habitat and build new habitat for bats,” Salomon said.
Salomon says White Nose Syndrome strikes bats during winter hibernation, when their immune systems are weak.
Bat houses are used in the summer and help beef up the animal’s immune system to make it through the cold season.
The U of M bat houses and prints are designed to make bats more accessible and pleasing to the eye.
“In order to get people to care about a species, we need to find them acceptable,” Munson said.
The colorful bat-themed prints and interactive, educational bat house models are going to be displayed in an exhibit next week on campus.
“We want the public to care,” Salomon said. “We want them to understand why bats are important, why this disease is important and what they can do to help.”
Salomon says bats are important for insect control. They eat mosquitoes and other insects that can compromise the agricultural industry.
While scientists like Salomon work on a cure or treatment for bats with White Nose Syndrome, the school’s designs are meant to inspire more education and action from the public.
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