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Environmental Protector

Greg Turner ’94 Champions Bats and Other Endangered Species

By Krista Weidner

GregTurner

Turner shows off his favorite bat species-the Virginia big-eared bat-in the Hellhole Cave in West Virginia. The cave houses 50 percent of the known species population. PHOTO BY: CARL BUTCHKOSKI, PENNSYLVANIA GAME COMMISSION

Greg Turner ’94, a wildlife biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, isn’t easy to track down. If he’s not monitoring the state’s population of rare small mammals such as water shrews or spotted skunks, he might be rappelling down a cliff to band peregrine falcons or into a cave to count and identify hibernating bats.

As leader of the endangered nongame mammal section of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management, Turner’s primary focus is to survey, monitor, and manage Pennsylvania’s protected mammals. “That includes everything you don’t trap and shoot—chipmunks, squirrels, wood rats, shrews, bats,” he says. “Yeah, I’m the bats and rats guy. It’s a good place to be: Of the world’s 5,000-some species, a third are rodents and a quarter are bats. That’s where all the diversity is. Only so many people can specialize in lions and tigers.”

Within the past several years, Turner, who lives in State College, Pa., has come to be known as one of the nation’s foremost authorities on white-nose syndrome—a fungal disease that has destroyed large segments of the bat population in the Northeast and has spread to the central United States. In Pennsylvania, the bat population has suffered a 99 percent decline, with the once-common little brown bat declining 99.9 percent. Continue reading