Big Oaks Conservation Society, the non-profit friends group of Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, will hold a meeting at the Jefferson County Public Library-Madison branch on Monday to discuss white-nose syndrome, a disease harmful to Indiana's bat population.

The public is encouraged to attend the free presentation, which starts at 6:30 p.m.

The featured speaker will be U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Rich Geboy, who will discuss the effects of white-nose syndrome on the native bat populations. 

White-nose syndrome is a rapidly spreading disease affecting cave-hibernating bats that is caused by a non-native cold-loving fungus named Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The disease was first documented near Albany, N.Y., in 2006 and 2007 and has since spread to more than 22 states and five Canadian provinces.

It has caused what experts dub as one of the most precipitous population declines recorded among North American fauna. By winter 2010 and 2011, white-nose syndrome was observed in several bat hibernacula (i.e., caves) in Indiana.

Today, all Indiana Department of Natural Resource caves are closed to the public, including those at Clifty Falls State Park. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services also have asked for a moratorium on caving in affected locations.