Dr. Craig Willis is a Professor of Biology at the University of Winnipeg who studies the ecology, behaviour, physiology and conservation of wild mammals, especially bats. Dr. Willis and his students have been especially active in the fight against an alarming fungal disease of bats called white-nose syndrome (WNS). WNS first appeared in northern New York state in winter 2007. In only 10 years it has killed millions of hibernating bats across eastern North America, causing the fastest decline of wild mammals ever recorded and leading Canada to list three species as ‘endangered’. Dr. Willis and his team provided the first direct evidence of the cause of mortality from WNS and were first to show that the fungus is an invasive species to North America. Since then they have been active in research to help slow the spread of this disease, help WNS-affected bats survive and reproduce and help guide management and policy for wildlife diseases more generally.
Dr. Willis has published nearly 90 peer-reviewed publications, which have been cited more than 2500 times, and he has helped guide national and international responses to WNS in Canada and the U.S. In 10 years at UW, he has received more than $2.5 million in research grants from Canadian and U.S. agencies. He was the University’s first Chancellor’s Research Chair from 2011-2014 and, in 2015, received a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC Canada) Discovery Accelerator Award, given to “researchers who have a superior research program that is highly rated in terms of originality and innovation, and who show strong potential to become international leaders in their field”.