Due to the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), we are postponing UNESCO Karst 2020 until August 17-21, 2020. The health and safety of our event attendees is a high priority, and with the growing number of travel restrictions for both academia and government, and multiple states declaring states of emergencies, we have determined that we could not in good conscience continue with the meeting in May. As much of the programming and planning is complete, we are hoping travel plans are flexible and most registrants will be able to attend in August. We anticipate that the schedule and most events will remain the same, pre-meeting field trip included, they will just occur August 15-21, 2020 rather than in May.

If you cannot attend the meeting in August, we will issue registration refunds and will be in touch by March 27 with details on how to request a refund. We appreciate your patience with this matter and will do our best to address this in a timely manner. 

If you have made hotel reservations at the Hyatt Place or Holiday Inn, please contact those hotels directly to cancel or change your reservation. 

 If you are a presenting author or workshop facilitator that cannot make the August meeting, please contact us directly at

This decision was not an easy one for the local committee. We are very disappointed that we cannot proceed as planned but we feel it is the right one given the current situation. Thank you in advance for your understanding and patience as we work together to arrange a safe and healthy meeting later this summer.

All the best to each of you and we hope to see you in August.

UNESCO Karst Planning Committee


Western Kentucky University, the George Wright Society, and the Mammoth Cave Area Biosphere Reserve invite you to attend Conservation of Fragile Karst Resources: A Workshop on Sustainability and Community in Bowling Green, Kentucky to be held August 17-21, 2020.

The purpose of this meeting is to enhance communication and the sharing of ideas and resources between major international conservation and science programs that protect, study, or manage cave and karst resources. The meeting will bring together a diverse group of managers, scientists, educators, and community partners to share successes and challenges in promoting sustainability and community involvement while protecting fragile karst ecosystems.

All those interested in participating are welcome to join us. Below are major international conservation and science programs that will be represented:

Man and the Biosphere (MAB)
World Heritage Convention (WHC)
Global Geopark Network (GGN)
UNESCO/IUGS International Geoscience Program Project #661 (IGCP)
International Association of Hydrogeologists Karst Commission (IAH KC)
International Research Center on Karst under the auspices of UNESCO (IRCK)
UNESCO International Hydrological Program (IGHP)
International Geographical Union Karst Commission (IGU KC)
World Karst Aquifer Map (WOKAM) Program
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
IUCN Cave and Karst Working Group

**Note that although the meeting will include participants from UNESCO programs, the workshop is not sanctioned by UNESCO or the U.S. government.


Panel 1

Our team

Planning Committee

Lee Anne Bledsoe, Crawford Hydrology Laboratory, Western Kentucky University
Chris Groves , Crawford Hydrology Laboratory, Western Kentucky University
Autumn Forschler, Crawford Hydrology Laboratory, Western Kentucky University
Emily Dekker-Fiala , George Wright Society
Dave Harmon, George Wright Society
Rick Toomey, Mammoth Cave National Park
Bruce Powell, Mammoth Cave National Park
Pat Kambesis, Cave Research Foundation, International Projects

Advisory Committee

Augusto Auler
Chair, IAH Karst Commission 
Instituto do Carste & Carste Consultores Associados
Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Alice Aureli 
Section Chief, Groundwater Systems and Settlements Section
Coordinator, Transboundary Aquifers Management Programme
UNESCO – Division of Water Sciences, International Hydrological Program

Zhang Cheng
Co-chair, IAH Karst Commission
UNESCO/IUGS IGCP Scientific Council
Karst Dynamics Laboratory
Ministry of Land and Resources
Guilin, China

Vanja Debevec
Head of Research and Development
Karst Biosphere Reserve
Skocjan Caves Park, Slovenia

Sarah Gaines
U.S. Geoheritage/Geoparks Advisory Group
Coastal Resource Center
University of Rhode Island
Rhode Island, USA

Tom Gilbert
National Park Service (retired)
Southern Appalachian MAB
Tennessee, USA

Nico Goldscheider
Professor, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Institute of Applied Geosciences
Division of Hydrogeology
Karlsruhe, Germany

John Gunn
Professor, University of Birmingham
Chair, Cave and Karst Specialist Group
Deputy Chair, Geoheritage Specialist Group
IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas
Birmingham, UK

Jim Lamoreaux
Chairman and Vice President
PELA GeoEnvironmental
Alabama, USA

Clayton Ferreira Lino
Brazilian Biosphere Reserve Network
President, National Council of Mata Atlântica Biosphere Reserve, Brazil

Cliff McCreedy
US Biosphere Reserve Program
National Park Service
Washington D.C., USA

Geary Schindel
Chief Technical Officer
Edwards Aquifer Authority
San Antonio, Texas, USA

Zoran Stevanovic
Co-chair, IAH Karst Commission
Centre for Karst Hydrogeology,
Department of Hydrogeology
Faculty of Mining & Geology,
University of Belgrade
Belgrade, Serbia

Елена Трофимова
Chair, IGU Karst Commission
Senior Researcher,
Laboratory of Geomorphology
Institute of Geography
Russian Academy of Sciences
Moscow, Russia

Barclay Trimble
Mammoth Cave National Park
Chair, Mammoth Cave Area Biosphere Reserve Advisory Council
Kentucky, USA

Benjamin Tobin
Karst Hydrogeologist
Kentucky Geological Survey
University of Kentucky

George Veni 
Executive Director,
National Cave and Karst Research Institute
President, UIS Bureau
New Mexico, USA

Jiang Zhongcheng
Co-director, Institute of Karst Geology
Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences
Guilin, China




Panel 2


Friday, August 14 – Monday, May 17 : Pre-meeting Field Excursion. Check-in with Meet and Greet at Hamilton Valley Field Station on Friday evening, select from four different small group tour options on Saturday,  canoe the Green River through Mammoth Cave National Park on Sunday, and a half-day surprise cave tour before returning to Bowling Green Monday evening.

Monday, August 17:  Registration and Welcome Reception at WKU. Airport shuttles from Nashville  to Bowling Green at 1200 and 1800.

Tuesday, August 18: Technical Sessions, Poster Reception, Gazing Deeply: The Art and Science of Mammoth Cave Exhibit, IAH Karst Commission Business Meeting. Schedule coming soon!

Wednesday, August 19: Field Excursions in Mammoth Cave Area Biosphere Reserve. All trip options end in Horse Cave for an evening of Bluegrass, Beer, and BBQ at Hidden River Cave, complete with cave and museum tours!

Thursday, August 20: Workshop Sessions and Local Tours, IAH Karst Commission 50th Anniversary special session followed by a celebration banquet at Lost River Cave with entertainment and cave tours. General meeting adjourns.

Friday, August 21: Organizational business meetings and optional karst class – details coming soon! Airport shuttles from Bowling Green to Nashville at 600 and 1200.




Panel 3



Full registration includes:

  • Entrance to all sessions and workshops
  • Meeting program, commemorative pint glass, and lunch each day
  • Airport Shuttle from Nashville, Monday, August 17 (2 time options)
  • Welcome reception, Monday, August 17
  • Poster session, museum tour, and reception, Tuesday, August 18
  • Field excursion, Wednesday, August 19
  • Dinner, tour, and local music, Hidden River Cave, Wednesday, August 19
  • Closing Banquet, Lost River Cave, Thursday, August 20
  • Airport Shuttle to Nashville, Friday, August 21 (2 time options)
shown in USD
Full Registration $450 $500
Student Registration $225 $275
Single-day Registration $150 $200
Guest Registration $350 $400
Low Income Economy Registration* $350 $400

*For residents from low or lower-middle income economies as defined by the World Bank.  Are you or your organization interested in sponsoring a student or low income economy registration? See our call for sponsors for more information.

Student registration offers full registration at a discounted rate for any person enrolled full-time in a degree-seeking program. (Student funding opportunity) Single-day registration allows entry to all events for that day only. Guest registration allows entry into evening social events only, field excursion with lunch, and airport shuttle. Guest must accompany a full registrant.

Are you or your organization interested in sponsoring a student or low income economy registration? See our call for sponsors for more information.

Please note: Your conference registration will not take effect until payment is received by the GWS office.  If you want to take advantage of the extended early bird discount, your payment must be received on or before June 17, 2020, no exceptions will be made, please plan accordingly. 

We strongly encourage payment at time of registration to secure your field trip options as these will be filled on a first-come, first serve basis.

If another entity or someone other than yourself is paying your registration fees, please provide contact information for that person in the ‘special instructions’ on the registration form. Your registration in not confirmed without payment.

Official invitation letters are available upon request. Please contact

Register Here!


Panel 4

Call for Abstracts

Promoting sustainability and community while protecting fragile karst ecosystems.

Want to share your research, program highlights, insights, and your enthusiasm for caves and karst?  We look forward to getting an abstract or proposal from you!  To submit an abstract for poster presentation, please follow these steps:

Step 1: Learn about our results-focused conference framework.

Meetings must provide value to attendees and their sponsoring organizations. This meeting is designed to deliver take-home benefits.  The process begins with you: when you submit a proposal, we ask you to be specific about what your session or presentation is trying to achieve, and what benefits attendees can expect to take home with them.

You can submit abstracts/proposals in five categories:  Paper (Oral Presentation), Poster, Flash-talk, Workshop, and/or Business Meeting.

Papers are 20-minute oral presentations (15 minutes for presentation and questions), usually (but not necessarily) accompanied by PowerPoint slides. PowerPoint presentations should be created with a Standard aspect ratio of 4:3. If accepted for presentation. Papers are grouped together by the Planning Committee according to topic to make up a session. Technical sessions will be held on Tuesday, May 19, 2020.

Posters are graphically oriented presentations that may be displayed horizontally or vertically. Maximum dimensions of poster boards are 48 inches wide and 72 inches tall, please design your poster accordingly.  The Poster Session/Reception will take place on Tuesday evening at the the Kentucky Museum.

*Please note that you can have your poster printed at the meeting venue if you prefer. You must contact the WKU Print Center prior to the meeting and then pay with credit card or cash at time of pick-up. The WKU Print Center is in the same building as our meeting making pick-up simple. One note is that one dimension of the poster cannot exceed 42″ (107 cm).  Typical poster size is 36″ (91cm) X 48″ (122cm) and costs approximately $75 USD.

Workshops are 1.5-hour blocks of time that you organize in order to achieve a specific outcome.  Workshop sessions will take place on Thursday, May 21, 2020.  As these are intended for small groups, rooms that seat 40 or less people will be assigned. Find more information about organizing your workshop here.

Business Meetings focus exclusively on programmatic or other business-oriented discussions.   Because Business Meetings are intended to be for smaller groups, they will be assigned to rooms that seat no more than 30 people.

Step 2: Learn about how the Conference Committee selects proposals and puts together the conference program.

The meeting is organized by a Committee convened by WKU, GWS, and the MCABR. The Committee organizes plenary sessions, but all the remaining conference sessions, are drawn from proposals you submit.  Selection is based on several factors:

  • First and foremost, the quality of the proposal, in terms of both content and presentation.
  • Whether the proposal will deliver the outcome being proposed.
  • The goal of including a wide range of interests and disciplines in the overall conference program.
  • The goal of representing the philosophy of the overall conference program.
  • The need to make concurrent sessions internally coherent.

The Conference Committee discourages proposals for workshop sessions that focus on a single park, biosphere reserve, world heritage site, etc. unless the proposal explicitly describes how the information presented will be relevant to other areas.

Step 3: Decide which format best suits your needs; then, review guidelines and instructions and submit your proposal. 

Abstract submission has closed.