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Lee Andrews

Supervisor, Ecological Services Field Office, United States Fish & Wildlife Services

As supervisor of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Ecological Services Field Office, Lee Andrews has served as the “face” of the agency in Kentucky for going on a decade.

“Really, my staff is the ‘face’ and I provide leadership behind the scenes,” says Andrews, who works to ensure that USFWS programs in Kentucky reflect and advance the agency’s mission to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the benefit of the American people.

Bring Back the Bats

Most recently, Andrews’ work has taken him to the Green River to collaborate with The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky on studying bat populations, especially federally-endangered Indiana bats and Gray bats which feed, roost and breed along portions of the river. They accomplish this work with mist nets that allow for safe capture (proof that bats are present in the area) and subsequent research.

In addition to mist netting, which has accounted for one Gray Bat to date, the USFWS and the Conservancy conducted an Anabat Survey using a computer to identify echolocation calls revealing activity in an area.

“The Anabat Survey indicated the presence of federally endangered Indiana bats along this stretch of the Green,” says Jeff Sole, director of conservation programs for The Nature Conservancy of Kentucky. “However, we’ll need to capture an Indiana Bat with a mist net to confirm their presence.”

This work has become especially relevant in light of the white-nose syndrome first detected by scientists in New York in 2006. Since then, this mysterious disease has afflicted brown bats, northern long-eared bats, small-footed bats, eastern pipstrelle and Indiana bats throughout the northeast. Bats with white-nose syndrome – named due to white halos of fungus which develop around their nose – use up fat reserves during hibernation and leave caves during winter to find food. They eventually die of starvation after futile searches for dormant insects.

Once a colony is affected, white-nose syndrome spreads rapidly and in some places has killed at least 95 percent of hibernating bats – devastating fatalities which far exceed the reproductive pace of one pup per female per year. Scientists are scrambling to identify the cause of the disease and its geographical scope. There is no evidence to suggest that the disease is harmful to humans or other organisms.

“We look forward to working with the Conservancy to raise awareness and get money on the ground when the disease reaches Kentucky, which it did in early 2011,” says Andrews. “This may be aided, in part, by the USFWS Indiana Bat Conservation Fund, which was established to offset the indirect and cumulative effects that various development projects were having on known and potential Indiana bat habitat.”

Returning to Roots

Working with the Conservancy to study, protect and in some cases, recover bats brings Lee Andrews back to the start of his conservation career 22 years ago.

“My first experience in Kentucky and in the conservation profession was as a summer employee hired by the Conservancy to conduct a rare vertebrates survey in the Daniel Boone National Forest,” says Andrews. “I had no idea you could make a living doing this kind of work until the Conservancy hired me!”

Now a leader in the field, Andrews jumps at the chance to work with the Conservancy in pursuit of what he views as similar priorities, adding “We’re usually working in the same places and support each other’s projects. Whether it’s bats or mussels or another imperiled species or habitat, we’re all working hard to do some good in the world – especially here in Kentucky.”

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Lee Andrews

Supervisor, Ecological Services Field Office, United States Fish & Wildlife Services

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