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Hoffman Institute founding member of international karst research academy

This week the WKU Hoffman Environmental Research Institute achieved a major milestone by joining 14 universities and research institutes around the world as an invited founding member of the newly created International Academy of Karst Sciences.

The International Academy of Karst Sciences will be housed at the world’s oldest karst research institute in Postojna, Slovenia.

The Academy is a consortium of 15 research institutes from 12 countries in Europe, Asia and North America with goals to increase the understanding of unique principles and characteristics of the karst environment, to promote international education in karst sciences and to promote good practice in karst sciences and the management of karst. Karst landscapes are those formed in soluble rock such as limestone where caves, sinkholes and underground rivers are common, and are estimated to provide some one-fourth of the world’s population with water resources.

“This is an exciting and very prestigious opportunity for WKU to enhance common interests and resources with scientists in Israel, Russia, Switzerland and other countries across the globe,” said University Distinguished Professor Chris Groves, who directs the Hoffman Institute and who recently signed the agreement to join the Academy.

The Hoffman Institute has a long record of involving WKU faculty, staff and students in international research programs, with more than 15 years of close collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) International Geoscience Program. Through these efforts, WKU students have traveled across the planet for research projects and conferences, including to such countries as Vietnam, Greece, Switzerland, Italy, Slovenia and throughout the Caribbean.

In December, a group of six faculty and students will conduct fieldwork in China to study atmospheric CO2 dynamics. Plans are under way for visiting scientists from Ukraine, Iran and China to work at The Hoffman Institute in 2013. “Joining the Academy will do nothing but increase these opportunities,” Dr. Groves said.

The Academy will be housed in Postojna, Slovenia, at the Karst Research Institute of the Slovenian Academy of Arts and Science, the world’s oldest active institute focused on the study of karst landscapes.

According to the Institute’s Director, Professor Tadej Slabe, “It was natural for WKU’s Hoffman Institute to be invited to participate from the beginning of the Academy. This group is very active in relevant international research programs, and former students of the program are now leaders in the karst science community.”

Geography and Geology Department Head David Keeling noted that “this invitation to become a founding member of the IAKS is validation of the decades of hard work, research, and leadership in the karst sciences provided by our faculty and students, and is a testament to the leadership of Dr. Chris Groves. The Hoffman Institute indeed has become a leading American karst program with international reach!”

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

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