About This Project
Some show caves can also be important shelters for different species of bats. Big bats colonies can form for hibernation during the winter or for maternity during the summer. In some of these caves, the "marriage" between tourists and bats has a long history. However, an in depth study was never done and nobody looked on the microbiological impact of bats on the air quality. By taking air samples from caves with bats we want to figure out whether air is clean enough for human breath.
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What is the context of this research?
Previous results point to the possibility hat pathogenic fungi are spread by bats that form important summer colonies in one Carpathian show cave. There is no previous research on the impact of bats on the air quality in temperate show caves. Studies on the impact on air quality in show caves were focused on tourists. Interesting results were obtained by C. Saiz Jimenez and collaborators in Spanish prehistoric caves, showing that the microorganisms introduced by tourists can alter the paintings. J. Mulec was the first to propose in 2014 the introduction of microbiological monitoring in show caves because of the possible impact of microorganisms introduced by tourists on both the cave features and air quality.
What is the significance of this project?
Show caves are an important part of tourism worldwide. If show caves with summer bats colonies represent a threat to the human health measures should be taken. Pathogenic fungi and/or bacteria can be of great risk for tourists. This study would be the first attempt to establish the risk of cave visits during the presence of active bats colonies. Our results will help us identify the risks of visiting show caves and propose measures to protect tourists in caves with summer bat colonies. They will also help us advise show cave managers of the safest trails and/or the safest time of year to conduct tours.
What are the goals of the project?
We will sample two show caves with winter and summer bats colonies. On the day of sampling, samples will be transported to laboratory where they will be kept for 3-5 days at constant temperature. After this period, the formed colonies will be isolated and we will extract genetic material from each of the colonies. The genetic material will be sent to sequencing and the obtained sequences will be compared to those in the GenBank database and identify which species or families the microorganisms belong to and whether they are pathogenic.
We just finished a project on monitoring in 5 Carpathian show caves and we find in one of the caves with bats a different pattern of air microbiological content than in the other four caves. We would like to continue the studies and identify the air microorganisms in two of the show caves with bats. Field trips will allow collection of fresh material, twice, in winter and summer and the money will be used for gasoline (4 transports = 2400 km = 300 USD) and accommodation (3 nights x 4 persons x 4 trips = 700 USD). Molecular extraction kits for fungi and bacteria (4 kits x 125 USD = 500 USD; Purification kit x 2 = 400 USD; bacteria medium R2A x 2 = 320 USD, agarosis, sucrosis etc = 300 USD) sequencing and laboratory supplies (tubes, glass Petri dishes, needles, etc. = 300 USD) will allow identification of species with the focus on pathogenic species.
Meet the Team
We are an interdisciplinary team in the Romanian Institute of Speleology, the first institute of this kind and one of the few in the world. We are working exclusively in caves and associated habitats. We are four researcher involved in this study, two established researchers specialized in biology, ecology and genetics of cave life (Ruxandra Nastase-Bucur and myself) and two PhD students (Silviu Bercea and Dragos Mantoiu) who work on air microbiology and bats distribution constraints in caves.
I am a speleologist, which means that I am working in caves as a scientist with interests in biology, ecology, paleoenvironment, climatology and conservation. I have graduated from the Babes Bolyai University of Cluj (Romania) in 1989 and after a short period as school teacher I started to work in the Institute of Speleology as research assistant. My PhD thesis defended in 1997 was on cave ecology at the Paul Sabatier University in Toulouse, after four years of work on Romanian cave beetles and experiments in the cave–laboratory of Moulis (France). Since, I conducted researches on groundwater ecology, fossil cave invertebrates and cave conservation together with a group from the Institute of Speleology. After 2010, I started to work on the microorganisms from cave sediments as indicators of past environments. I am the author of several books on cave fauna, many papers on cave life and conservation issues and presented my results in many international scientific conferences.
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