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Mammoth Cave National Park, WKU establish agreement with Slovenia

A signing ceremony between Mammoth Cave, WKU and the Karst Research Institute of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts established a cooperative arrangement to share scientific research. Seated from left: Dr. Janez Mulec; Superintendent Patrick Reed; WKU's Dr. Blaine Ferrell and Dr. Chris Groves; standing from left: Deputy Superintendent Bruce Powell; Bob Ward, chief of science/resource management; Dr. Rick Toomey, director of Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning (MCICSL); Shannon Trimboli, education director of MCICSL; Andrea Stice, executive director Friends of Mammoth Cave NP; Rachel Jones, Greenwood High environmental science teacher; Tyler Harrell, Greenwood High School student; Anna Meany, Greenwood High School student; and Cheryl Messenger, environmental education coordinator.

Mammoth Cave National Park expanded its family of partners on Feb. 12 by adding new “sisters” in Slovenia. A signing ceremony between Mammoth Cave, WKU and the Karst Research Institute of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts established a cooperative arrangement to share scientific research.

Mammoth Cave Superintendent Patrick Reed said, “As a World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, Mammoth Cave is reaching out to other nations and internationally renowned karst areas. This is a great opportunity to work with our long-standing partner Western Kentucky University and forge new connections with our Slovenian friends.”

Participating in the signing were Superintendent Reed, Dr. Janez Mulec of the Slovenian Karst Research Institute, Dr. Blaine Ferrell, Dean of Ogden College of Science and Engineering, and Dr. Chris Groves, Director of WKU’s Hoffman Institute.

Dr. Mulec traveled to Kentucky representing the Slovenian partners – Skocjan Caves, Postojna Cave, and the Slovenian Karst Research Institute.

“Skocjan is a World Heritage Site and Postojna receives around 500,000 visitors a year, making it a top tourist destination,” said Mulec. “The Slovenian karst landscape is very similar to south central Kentucky with numerous sinkholes and limestone caves. As cave managers, we share many similar issues.”

Dr. Rick Toomey (center) and Dr. Janez Mulec (left) led Greenwood High School students on a science workshop inside Mammoth Cave.

While visiting Kentucky, Dr. Mulec focused on his specialty of lampenflora, or algae and green plants that grow around cave lighting. He said, “I toured sections of Mammoth Cave to observe these plants. We are actively working to remove lampenflora in Slovenian caves because it detracts from the beauty of caves. It also disrupts the cave eco-system by introducing a new source of energy into the food chain.”

Dr. Rick Toomey of the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning looks forward to cooperating with Slovenian scientists to exchange technology to remove green plants. “This arrangement will enable us to work with Slovenian scientists to explore methods to remove lampenflora, and avoid harming cave animals or damaging formations.”

The Friends of Mammoth Cave National Park, with the help of Bluegrass Cellular, sponsored a Greenwood High School environmental science class as they participate in a workshop inside Mammoth Cave with Dr. Mulec. The students also attended the signing ceremony at the Mammoth Cave Hotel.

Contact: Nicole Bull, (270) 758-2192.

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