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WKU grad wins international award

Ben Miller, who graduated from WKU in May 2011 with a master’s degree in Geoscience, has been awarded the top 2011 Young Karst Researcher Award from the International Association of Hydrogeologists, or IAH.

Ben Miller

Ben Miller

Miller, who is from Springfield, Mo., was recognized for his master’s thesis research studying the groundwater hydrology of the Carroll Cave System in Missouri.

The award is typically given to doctorate-level students, but the committee this year felt Miller’s research efforts were extraordinary at the master’s level.

The two other winners this year were Anita Eröss of Hungary’s Eötvös Loránd University and Sarah Truebe from the University of Arizona. Each winner received a collection of books, but Miller also received a $500 grand prize.

He traced groundwater with geochemical and statistical methods to discover details of the geometry of a complex underground “plumbing system” that feeds a series of important springs.

Dr. Chris Groves, director of WKU’s Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, and Dr. Bob Lerch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, directed Miller’s work.

“Miller used an innovative combination of cave exploration and mapping, water tracing, geochemistry and statistics,” Groves said. “His learning curve as a master’s student was steep at times, even requiring extra classes, but he threw himself into it and, as a result, developed an outstanding skill set for this kind of environmental work.”

Professor Nico Goldscheider of the University of Karlsruhe, Germany, the IAH Karst Commission chair and a committee member that selects award winners, said Miller was very talented and passionate about karst and caves.

“Miller stood out in this competition because of his excellent presentation skills,” Goldscheider said.

Miller is now an Environmental Research Specialist for WKU’s Hoffman Institute.

“Ongoing research by students and faculty in the Hoffman Institute is addressing many of the critical challenges facing our global society in the 21st century, including water quality and environmental management of our natural resources,” said Dr. David Keeling, head of WKU’s Department of Geography and Geology.

Contact: Chris Groves, (270) 745-5974.

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