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Geoscientist attends cave workshop

Dan Nolfi, a geoscience graduate student working in the Hoffman Environmental Institute with advisor Dr. Chris Groves, will represent WKU and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSM) on Nov. 18-19 at a workshop in Denver to facilitate cave resource monitoring and collaboration among cave and karst specialists of various National Park Service units.

Dan Nolfi in Gregory's Cave at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. (Photo courtesy of A. Froschauer)

Dan Nolfi in Gregory's Cave at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo courtesy of A. Froschauer)

Nolfi’s research focus at WKU is on the development and implementation of a cave and karst resource management plan specific to the GRSM, and based on current “best practices” across federal and non-federal cave and karst resource managers. In addition to specific NPS cave and karst concerns, Nolfi hopes to incorporate inventory and monitoring protocols discussed in this workshop to develop the necessary cave and karst management plan to proactively manage cave and karst resources at GRSM.

National parks stand to gain significantly from a review of past inventory and monitoring protocols through evaluation based on effectiveness and proficiency of resource protection. Representatives from the NPS Inventory and Monitoring Program and the NPS Cave and Karst Program (Geologic Resource Division) will discuss the current state of cave inventory and monitoring (I&M) efforts, as well as deficiencies and methods for improvement.

Specific workshop objectives are to define a set of pertinent, measurable monitoring objectives for a modest set of priority indicators for long-term monitoring of cave resource conditions. In addition, workshop participants will scope out methodologies for addressing monitoring objectives, and discuss simple but effective approaches for managing, analyzing, and reporting the monitoring results. The meeting will set responsibilities and designate a schedule for parks to take lead role in the development and completion of specified protocols. Ultimately, this will help to establish a communication network of cave parks for the distribution of protocols and future communication and coordination among cave parks.

Finally, a workable approach to data entry, checking, analysis, and reporting will be discussed, with an emphasis on the creation of databases with existing frameworks, personnel, and partnerships. The workshop’s main purpose is to further develop collaboration among national parks to solidify the inventory and monitoring of delicate cave and karst resources in our national parks.

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