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Geoscientist presents keynote lecture at European cave research conference

WKU Distinguished Professor of Hydrogeology Chris Groves returned this week from Slovenia in Eastern Europe where he presented an invited keynote lecture “Karst Hydrology Research in Show Caves of the Mammoth Cave International Biosphere Reserve, Kentucky, USA” at the International Congress on Scientific Research in Show Caves.

Conference attendees from around the world look down several hundred feet to the River Reka from the Cerkvenik Bridge across the deep Hanke Channel in Škocjan Caves World Heritage Site.

The conference gathered together scientists from around the world to discuss a wide variety of scientific research efforts in environmental sciences including hydrology, geophysics and archeology that utilize caves that have been developed for tourists. These efforts provide relatively easy access and other infrastructure advantages to study what otherwise can be a difficult and harsh environment in which to collect data.

Groves was one of four invited speakers at the conference, and the only one from the United States.

The region of the conference’s location, at the northern end of the former Yugoslavia, gives its German name Karst to the types of surface and underground landscapes like that of south central Kentucky where caves, sinkholes and underground rivers are common. The conference was held literally on top of the Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where the River Reka flows through awesomely deep canyons eventually to emerge at Italy’s Timavo Springs on the Adriatic Sea. According to myth, Jason and the Argonauts visited the springs on their quest for the Golden Fleece.

Groves’ invitation to the conference follows decades of cooperative cave-related research and educational efforts between WKU and Mammoth Cave National Park, where scientists and students have studied various aspects of hydrology, geology and other environmental issues related to the area’s cave systems. His presentation highlights this work.

In 2009 WKU, along with Mammoth Cave National Park, signed a five-way cooperative agreement with Slovenian partners at Škocjan Caves, Postojna Cave and the Karst Research Institute of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

Geography and Geology Department Head David Keeling noted that “the Hoffman Institute enjoys a global reputation for excellence in cave and karst research, and Dr. Groves’ participation in this important conference is yet another indicator of the department’s, and thus WKU’s, international reach.”

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

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