Workshop Sessions



Unfortunately all workshops may not be offered during the online meeting. We will be posting more information soon.


Join us in thematic workshops to facilitate collaboration between international resource protection programs and to inform karst conservation, sustainable development, and community involvement efforts in the world’s premier karst regions. Workshops are 1.5-hour blocks of time that have been organized to achieve a specific outcome. Participants can register for one workshop per session.

SESSION 1               9:00 SESSION 2                             10:45 SESSION 3                     13:45
Climate Change Impacts on Caves and Karst 
Investigation Methods and Sustainable Remediation of Karst Sinkhole Hazards FULL
Urban Karst Monitoring and Management Techniques
Citizen Science, Research and Land Management in Karst FULL
Interdisciplinary Approaches for Karst Protection
Special Considerations at the Intersection of Rural Communities and Karst
Interpreting Karst for the Public Significance of cultural heritage in karst management: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development The International Year of Caves and Karst: How will you participate and make it successful?
CaveMAB – A Network of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves Exploring best practices in data management, integration, and visualization Teaching Karst Through Environmental Education
Graffiti in Caves: Assessment and Low-impact Mitigation

Click on link in table for workshop details! Please note that some workshops include tours or short local field trips off-campus.

Climate Change Impacts in Caves and Karst – FULL
Facilitator: Joel Despain, Cave Management Scientist, National Cave and Karst Research Institute

It is clear that the era of climate change impacts is upon us. Yet, in the US at least, there has been little consideration or discussion of its effects on cave and karst biology, hydrology, climate and geology and apparently little if any management response. This workshop seeks to encourage research and management in karstic environments and caves on climate change impacts and effects in particular at caves on public land. To that end, the agenda includes three specific topics for cafe-style discussions. 1) The development of an illustrated model of climate change impacts to caves and karst to encourage the free flow of ideas. Tables of participants will be provided with a large format initial model to edit and mark up. 2) A discussion and listing of known relevant datasets and information that documents assumed base level conditions with information to be collected in a standardized digital format. 3) Discussion of research priorities and ideas with an eye toward collaborations and thoughts on funding opportunities. A final report with a snythesis of the workshop responses and information will be created and will be shared with conference organizers and participants.

Citizen Science, Research and Land Management in Karst
Facilitator: Ben Tobin, Karst Hydrogeologist, Kentucky Geological Survey

Cavers have long been integral to understanding and protecting cave resources around the world. This workshop will bring together cavers, scientists, and managers to discuss the history of these interactions, ways each group has helped the other, challenges to improving our understanding of cave resources and management, and a path forward in continuing to build these relationships. Panelists will come from a range of cave enthusiasts from cavers to karst scientists to land managers and will discuss different aspects of how cavers and the public have helped shape cave and karst science and resource management, challenges, innovations, and discuss a path forward in improving these critical relationships. This workshop will include an interactive question and answer session between the panelists and the audience. **Designed to compliment Interdisciplinary Approaches for Karst Protection worskhop in next session.**

Interpreting Karst for the Public
Facilitator: Tiffany Isselhardt, Curator and Development Manager, Kentucky Museum at WKU

The work of karst scientists is integral to humanity, yet most humans don’t understand the work or its importance. How can scientists better interpret their work for the public? This workshop will showcase various types of interpretive projects, such as museum exhibitions, films, or artistic installations, and how interpretation – and collaboration with non-scientists – fosters greater understanding of scientific methods and work in karst landscapes. Participants will view various types of interpretive projects, then work with workshop leaders and attendees to develop their own proposed interpretive project using a short form. ***This workshop will be held at the Kentucky Museum.***

Facilitators: Lee Anne Bledsoe, Research Hydrologist, Assistant Director, Crawford Hydrology Laboratory at WKU

The CaveMAB network ( is an informal thematic network within the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program. CaveMAB was recently formed in 2018 and hopes to connect people from the more than 100 biosphere reserves with cave and/or karst resources across the globe. The network is multidisciplinary and plans to address the similar challenges we all face, whether social, educational, cultural, or scientific, in protecting the biodiversity of the unique cave and karst environments within Biosphere Reserves (BR). The goal of this workshop is to reach alignment around shared values and vision for the CaveMAB network and develop a declaration of objectives. Anyone working in a cave or karst BR, whether it be via direct BR management or through partner agencies, is encouraged to attend.

Graffiti in Caves: Assessment and Low-impact Mitigation
Facilitators: Val Hildreth-Werker and Jim Werker, Conservation Division Joint-Chiefs, National Speleological Society

Starting with a PowerPoint presentation, we will show examples of current best practices for assessing and mitigating graffiti in caves. Throughout our workshop presentations, we focus on the principle of primum non nocere, first do no harm to spelean values and resources. Cave markings come in many forms—cultural, historic, downright ugly, truly artistic, or clearly contemporary—sometimes causing a quandary of questions, and sometimes revealing cultures layered upon cultures. Anthropogenic markings remain on a variety of cave substrates, created with many different kinds of media. Assessment includes identification, documentation, and protection of potential cultural markings and historical signatures. We will present low-impact techniques for mitigating and removing contemporary graffiti. Participants will discuss methods for testing tools and techniques and training team leaders for large projects. Conversations will involve protocols for addressing the presence and recurrence of contemporary graffiti. Interactive discussions will welcome participant questions, concerns, dilemmas, and ideas for advancing techniques. Breakout groups will form to organize and present “where do we go from here” outcomes resulting from cave graffiti conversations.

Investigation Methods and Sustainable Remediation of Karst Sinkhole Hazards
Facilitator: Jason Polk, Director and Associate Professor, CHNGES at WKU

Sinkholes risks are common in karst areas and the major collapse in 2014 at the National Corvette Museum (NCM) in Bowling Green, Kentucky received significant attention around the world. Due to the complex nature of the sinkhole’s location inside the building and threat of further damage and safety concerns, a multi-disciplinary approach was used to collaboratively bring cave and karst geoscience, geology, engineering, hydrology, construction, and geophysical methods together to investigate and explore the sinkhole and underlying cave passage. Participants will learn about modern investigation and remediation techniques for complex sinkholes that threaten infrastructure, as well as educational methods for conveying hazard risks.***This session includes a field trip to the National Corvette Museum.***

Interdisciplinary Approaches for Karst Protection – FULL
Facilitator: Katarina Kosic Ficco, Karst Protection Specialist, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Today there is an increased interest for inclusion and accountability of social and political aspects in karst protection. Stagnant and underdeveloped karst protection policies worldwide, and lack of implementation of various proposed methodologies for karst evaluation, management, and protection have left many (particularly in the scientific sphere) wondering how to proceed. The solution lies in combining various aspects of scientific as well as socio-political views. A so-called K-framework has been developed as an attempt to present a generalized as well as simplified, interdisciplinary approach for karst protection that assures inclusion of multiple entities and applicability on various karst terrains. This framework will be presented at the beginning of the workshop, and will provide the base for discussion focused on new and existing solutions, and potential challenges and shortcomings. ***Designed to compliment Citizen Science, Research and Land Management in Karst workshop.***

Significance of cultural heritage in karst landscape management: 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
Facilitators: Darja Kranjc, Higher Nature Protection Counselor, Skocjan Caves Park, Slovenia, and Jasna Fakin Bajec, Institute for Culture and Memory Studies, Research Centers of the Slovenian Acadmey of Sciences and Art

This workshop will define cultural heritage and explain potential differences with what is understood as cultural resources and cultural values. After up-to-date theoretical explanation, practice examples will be shared on how cultural heritage typical for limestone areas can help towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), elaborating on the reasons for and practical usage of cultural heritage in management of the UNESCO Karst and Reka River Basin Biosphere Reserve (Slovenia). Participants will be invited to produce a draft of their own “Karst Cultural Heritage Database”, co-create a template for proper sustainable solution development based on cultural heritage, and discuss creation of an open database of sustainable traditional practices and solutions on karst areas around the globe.

Exploring best practices in data management, integration, and visualization.
Facilitators: Sarah Arpin, Geologist II, Kentucky Geological Survey, and Pat Kambesis, Department of Geography and Geology, WKU

This workshop is intended to help resource managers and researchers consider data from a data-management perspective. An important focus will be exploring tools and techniques for getting the most value out of data. A holistic approach to storing, accessing, and processing data is key to better understanding, management, and protection of vulnerable resources, environments, and ecosystems. The integration of data of all types, sources, and formats for a unified view will also be covered. Visualization of data beyond tables and graphs, using creative 2-D, 3-D, and spatial maps and models, will be explored. Limitations of various software programs used to access, manage, manipulate, and visualize data will be considered. Participants will engage in open discussion of current practices in data management, integration, and visualization, learning from peers, and receive instruction on emerging techniques. Both professionals and the public can benefit from community involvement through crowd sourcing data and citizen science. Making data available through an easy-to-use interface for visualization, searching, and reusability is key to understanding and protecting our natural resources.

Urban Karst Monitoring and Management Techniques
Facilitator: Jason Polk, Director and Associate Professor, CHNGES at WKU

Participants will explore various methods and techniques for data collection, monitoring, and equipment/instrumentation use in conducting research and/or collecting data in karst groundwater systems visiting examples from the field in Bowling Green’s urban karst landscape. Covered topics will include an overview of setting up a sampling or monitoring site, monitoring techniques, analytical techniques, data logger deployment and utilization, software selection and usage, data processing, and current status of urban karst groundwater monitoring and future directions for planning. Software and hardware covered will include the newest sondes, probes, analytical instrumentation, and commonly available data processing and analytical suites, with a look to the future as these continue to evolve.***This session includes a urban karst field trip around Bowling Green.***

Special Considerations at the Intersection of Rural Communities and Karst
Facilitators: Sarah Burgess, Graduate Student, Indiana University, Lee Florea and Tracy Branam, Indiana Geological and Water Survey

Landscapes dominated by karst features present communities with unique challenges, including but not limited to restricted water supply, subsidence phenomena, slower-paced economic development. Rural communities situated on karst terrains have limited capacity to effectively deal with conflict between their lifestyles and environment. This can lead to undesirable outcomes for individuals and natural resources. Professionals working in these areas must balance environmental management with the special needs of rural communities, a task further complicated by cultural barriers to outside intervention. The Indiana Geological and Water Survey and the Center for Rural Engagement, both at Indiana University, are working toward an effective narrative with rural communities in Indiana’s karst region; however, we also recognize that common themes emerge from work conducted in karst regions on an international scale. By communicating convergent and divergent themes in this field, we can best apply specialized knowledge to help people succeed in living with karst. In this Café Conversation workshop, participants will collaborate to answer questions in protecting both rural communities and karst resources where they intersect.

The International Year of Caves and Karst: How will you participate and make it successful?
Facilitator: George Veni, Director, National Cave and Karst Research Institute and UIS President, International Union of Speleology

The International Year of Caves and Karst IYCK) is the world’s first global public education event on caves and karst. It is scheduled for 2021 and organized by the International Union of Speleology with dozens of international and national partnering organizations. The goals of the IYCK are to raise awareness of the importance of caves and karst, to increase access to caves for exploration and study, and support and funding for improved protection and research. The success of the IYCK depends on organizations developing events and activities in their areas.  Partnership with the 93 World Heritage Sites and 70 UNESCO Global Geoparks that were established at least in part, if not primarily, for caves and karst will be emphasized, as well as partnerships with organizations that are not usually aware of caves and karst but benefit from them. All participants should be able to return to their organizations and begin initiating consequential events for the IYCK.

Teaching Karst Through Environmental Education
Facilitators: Jennifer Shackleford, Education Specialist, Mammoth Cave National Park and Jeanine Huss, Professor, School of Teacher Education, WKU

Teaching the youth of the world about karst areas is very important. We want to encourage people to make good choices with our environment, so caves and groundwater are not negatively impacted. By teaching youth about caves and karst we are making a positive long term investment in the future of our karst regions. This workshop will present various ways to teach about cave and karst areas to different age groups and allow participants to discuss challenges encountered within their own programs and collectively brainstorm solutions. Anyone interested in educational karst programming should attend. Participants will leave the session with examples of 4th and 5th grade educational programming from Mammoth Cave National Park and links to kindergarten through middle school curriculum.