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WKU students, faculty, staff attend International Congress of Speleology

During the heat of summer in the Texas Hill Country, 14 students, staff and faculty at WKU converged on the campus of Schreiner University in Kerrville, Texas, on July 19-26 to participate in the 15th International Congress of Speleology, an event that occurs once every four years at selected sites around the globe. The last time the U.S. hosted the Congress was during 1981 in Bowling Green.

Dr. George Veni, the Executive Director of the National Cave and Karst Institute and a WKU alumnus, served as the Chair of the weeklong Congress. Also on the Congress staff were Dr. Lee Florea and Patricia Kambesis, both of WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology, who served as the chair of scientific sessions and the Congress webmaster respectively.

The Congress, with approximately 1,600 attendees from 52 countries, was partly sponsored by the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute. The Institute’s director, Dr. Chris Groves, attended and also sponsored a number of Institute staff members and students, including Geoscience graduate students Ben Miller of Springfield, Mo., Dan Nolfi of Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Erin Lynch of Arlington, Va., and undergraduate students Dalene Smith of Louisville and Chasity Stinson of Bowling Green. Also attending the Congress were Hoffman Institute Environmental Research Associate Lee Anne Bledsoe and visiting Chinese scientists Zhang Cheng and Jiang Yongjun, WKU WATERS Laboratory staff members Rick Fowler and Josh Brewer, and Rickard Toomey of the Mammoth Cave International Center of Science and Learning.

Daily sessions at the Congress included more than 500 invited and contributed papers that covered all aspects of cave exploration, cave science and cave management. Evening gatherings provided an excellent venue for networking with cave explorers and scientific colleagues from around the world. Highlights of the Congress were many, and included daily field trips to regional caves, sunset trips to observe massive flights of Mexican Freetail bats, mid-week scientific field trips in the Texas Hill Country and the Edwards Aquifer, closing banquets and award ceremonies, and pre- and post-congress field trips to important cave sites throughout the U.S., including two trips that will visit the Mammoth Cave area July 30 through Aug. 1.

“International conferences like the ICS provide wonderful opportunities for WKU students, faculty and staff to highlight their research activities,” said Dr. David Keeling, Geography and Geology Department Head. “Students especially are exposed to ideas, projects and methods from around the world, fitting clearly into the departmental and university mission to prepare them for success in a global society.”

Contact: Chris Groves (270) 745-5974 or Lee Florea (270) 745-5982

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