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Groves discusses WKU karst research at international conference in Belgium

This week, WKU Distinguished Professor of Geography Chris Groves returned from Brussels where he traveled as an invited guest of the Belgian government to lecture at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences.

He joined about 40 European scientists for the International Symposium on “Karst Research, Challenges for the XXIst Century,” where he discussed results of recent environmental research under way by students, faculty and staff of WKU’s Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, which Groves directs.

His presentation, “Agricultural Impacts on Karst Systems and Influence of the Epikarstic Zone, South Central Kentucky, USA,” highlights work done in collaboration and with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Groves was the only American scientist invited to speak at the conference.

“The meeting was a great chance to showcase our work with the ARS to many of the top European karst scientists,” said Groves, “focusing on the high-resolution groundwater monitoring methods we are developing to understand agricultural impacts.”

There is great interest in Europe in relationships between land use and karst groundwater quality, as many areas there rely totally on karst groundwater for water supplies.

“Belgium, for example, gets 80 percent of its drinking water from karst aquifers,” said Groves.

Conference attendees also participated in a surface and underground field excursion to the Lonne River region near Rochefort, Belgium, where caves, sinkholes, and underground drainage in some ways share characteristics with the cave area of south central Kentucky.  The region is also of great historical importance as it suffered through World War II’s “Battle of the Bulge” in late 1944.

Geography and Geology Department Head David Keeling noted that WKU’s growing international reputation is further enhanced by the types of research outreach and collaboration demonstrated by Dr. Groves during his visit to Belgium.

“Dr. Groves is one of WKU’s most visible scientists internationally,” Dr. Keeling said, “and his participation in this important conference is another example of his many contributions to enhancing WKU’s reputation as a leading American university with global reach.”

Contact: Chris Groves, (270) 745-4555.

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