Identification of fungi from soil in the Nakimu caves of Glacier National Park


Baylee Out, Sarah Boyle, Naowarat Cheeptham

Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops, B.C., Canada

Mount Revelstoke and Glacier National Parks, Revelstoke, B.C., Canada

Volume 2
Fall 2015 / Winter 2016

The Nakimu caves of Glacier National Park, British Columbia, CA are a remote, oligotrophic karst environment. These caves are swarming sites of endangered little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus) and northern myotis (Myotis septentrionalis) bat populations. This project is the first mycological investigation of cultivable fungi in Nakimu Caves, and is intended to focus on the presence of Pseudogymnoascus species. Pseudogymnoascus destructans is the deadly fungus that causes white nose syndrome (WNS) infection in bats in eastern North America and was first discovered in 2006. With the westward advance of this disease, it is important to determine the fungal flora of the cave, to detect any fungal pathogens, and to have baseline information of the common fungal cave inhabitants. This will assist monitoring the impacts of cave use, and visitation policy to the cave would be impacted by the detection of Pseudogymnoascus destructans. A total of 29 soil samples and 26 environmental swabs from the caves were plated onto Sabouraud and Rose Bengal agar. Samples were cultured at 4°C for eight to ten weeks to capture the diversity of cultivable species from the cave's dark zone. Out of 272 fungal isolates, 50 representative samples were identified using ITS sequencing of fungal DNA to the genus and species level. From these, 10 genera of fungi were identified, consistent with common cave fungal flora from around the world. The Pseudogymnoascus genus was common in the major cave system, but Pseudogymnoascus destructans was not amongst the sequenced samples.