On November 23, 2019, a student from Purdue University fell while rappelling in the Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc.'s (SCCi) Valhalla Cave in Jackson County, Alabama. He was on a Purdue Outing Club trip that included other cave trips. The group had acquired the appropriate SCCi permit.

SCCi Board Chair, Kris Green, said "We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of this young man."

SCCi's Valhalla Preserve was created in 2002. It is a 145-acre nature preserve that includes Valhalla Cave. The cave is accessed through a 227 foot entrance pit. This is the first fatality at the Valhalla Preserve since SCCi acquired it. SCCi is cooperating with local authorities in their investigation.

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi) announces that the Annual Science Awards program to help fund scientific and conservation research projects on SCCi preserves is now soliciting grant proposals for 2019-2020. As the nation’s largest and most successful land conservancy solely devoted to acquiring and protecting caves, SCCi understands that scientific research must be part of our mission. We firmly believe that research is essential to conserving cave and karst resources, and it is a foundation upon which good stewardship must depend.

We aim to have a well-rounded research program with focus mainly towards cave/karst topics in geology, geochemistry, hydrology, biology, environmental science, and archaeology. SCCi currently protects more than 170 caves on 31 preserves in 6 states. Any one or more of these caves and preserves would be worthy of different scientific investigations.

SCCi is now accepting grant proposals from non-profit caving groups, scientists, university/college faculty members, and undergraduate-graduate students for conducting research projects at SCCi properties beginning in the Fall of 2019. Funds can only be given to a not-for-profit organization or educational institution. For this year, funding is available to support as many as 3 grants of up to $1,500-$2,000 for (1) geology, geochemistry, or hydrology, (2) biology (zoology and botany) and (3) environmental/archaeological projects.

All proposals must follow the format outlined below and be submitted via email to SCCi Chief Scientist Dr. Matthew Niemiller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In addition to the research proposal, please also include your C.V. or resume highlighting your current position, educational background, and relevant research experience. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2019. A team of reviewers will evaluate all proposals and base their decisions on scientific merit. Funding decisions will be announced by December 30, 2019. Awardees from the previous year are not eligible. Results from the research must be submitted to SCCi as brief biannual reports highlighting research progress and accomplishments to date followed by a final report or thesis. We encourage publishing in scientific journals but SCCi reserves the right to review each report for approval/disapproval prior to publishing.

In your proposal, please provide the following information:

TITLE. Provide a concise and descriptive title in 15 words or less of the proposed research.

CONTACT INFORMATION. Provide your name, official mailing address, contact phone number, and email address.

BACKGROUND AND NEED. Describe in up to 1,500 words state the research problem which will be addressed wholly or in part by this research. Provide in up to 1,500 words relevant background information and discussion to (1) clearly identify the research problem that will be addressed wholly or in part by the proposed research; (2) provide a framework for the research and how it relates to other research; and (3) identify the relevance of the proposed research.

OBJECTIVE(S). Describe in up to 500 words the primary research question(s), hypothesis, predictions, and specific objectives of the proposed research. Objectives should focus on research outcomes.

EXPECTED RESULTS OR BENEFITS. Describe in up to 500 words the expected results and benefits of the proposed research. How will the research project benefit cave and karst resources owned and/or managed by SCCi? Please attempt to provide quantifiable or verifiable resource benefits. Also identify plans for how the results of the research will be disseminated.

APPROACH. Describe in up to 1,500 words how the research will be conducted. Include the major method(s) to be employed and the schedule (i.e., project timeline) to be followed. Please list any existing or pending permits and approvals necessary to conduct the research (e.g., state or federal scientific collecting permit). If you are an undergraduate or graduate student, please identify the research advisor at your institution.

LOCATION. Identify where the research will occur and include a list of SCCi preserves and caves where research may be conducted.

ESTIMATED COST AND BUDGET. Provide the total estimated cost for the research project and an itemized budget on how SCCi funding from this award would be applied. In addition, please provide a short justification for budget line item requested. If the total project budget is greater than the amount of SCCi funding requested, please include a list of other existing or potential sources of funding for the project.

LITERATURE CITED. Provide all relevant literature cited in the proposal.

B32019PSCombining great bluegrass music, locally crafted brews from Chattanooga Brewing and amazing food from Parkway Pourhouse in a gorgeous outdoor setting, Bats, Beer & Bluegrass is one of the most unique events in the Southeast. Dinner is included with your ticket. Beer is available for purchase (over 21 years old of course). Purchase a VIP ticket and get a souvenir mug, poster and or complementary beer during the event.

This year we have two amazing bluegrass bands, No Time Flatt and The Tin Cup Rattlers. No Time Flatt is the 2017 and 2018 winner of the Tennessee Music Awards, "Bluegrass Band of the Year." The Tin Cup Rattlers are a husband and wife duo from Chattanooga who feature a rich bluegrass tradition.

Best of all will be the opportunity to experience all of this on a gorgeous nature preserve with the stunning entrance to Frick's Cave as the backdrop. The evening ends with a chance to witness the spectacular flight of the endangered gray bats from the cave.


Click here for more information and to buy your tickets 4th Annual Bats, Beer and Bluegrass

After a recent fatality at the Stephens Gap Preserve involving Philip Whitehead of Kentucky and Florida, SCCi has decided to temporarily close visitation to the preserve up to but no later than September 20.  This is out of respect to the family and friends of Philip Whitehead, and to evaluate and discuss current visitation guidelines and/or develop new ones.  The Board must also evaluate reports from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office and the Jackson County Coroner, as this death remains under investigation.  The Board did not make this decision in haste or without much discussion and counsel. Should you have questions, please contact Ray Knott, Executive Director at 423-771-9671.

SCCi extends our condolences to the family of the man that fell to his death at the Stephens Gap-Callahan Preserve on 04/11/19. Cause for the fall in unknown.

Out of respect and to facilitate the investigation, we cancelled all permits for 04/12/19 and have suspended issuing new permits to the preserve until 4/20/19. The Jackson County Sheriff's department has released no details regarding the fatality as of this post.

SCCi was recently awarded a capacity building grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation. This grant funds 2 positions.

The first position is a Director of Outreach and Education. This person will be responsible for developing a robust education program that primarily targets K-12 classrooms. In addition to curriculum support, the position will develop and deliver talks focused on SCCi and wild cave conservation to community groups, preserve vistors, etc. Finally, the Director - Education and Outreach will have responsibility for working with our members and donors (under $500 annually). For more information and instructions on applying, read the position description - SCCi_Director_Education_and_Outreach.pdf

The second position is a Land Manager. This position is responsible for managing various aspects of preserve operations ranging from working with preserve visitors to managing small projects such as trail maintenance, kiosk building, signage, etc. This position will also work to kick-start an SCCi led trip program. Due to the nature of this position, the person will need to be skilled in both horizontal and vertical caving; have the physical ability to navigate rough terrain safely; and be willing to work outside in all four seasons. For more information and instructions on applying, read the position description - SCCi_Land_Manager.pdf

Henson Preserve Vista Courtesy of Georgia Alabama Land TrustImage Courtesy of Georgia Alabama Land Trust

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. recently received a donation of more than 2,300 acres in Northwest Georgia from an anonymous donor, as well as additional acreage from the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, Inc. Together, the donated property constitutes most of the failed development called the Preserve at Rising Fawn, located at Johnsons Crook in Dade County, Georgia.

The property includes more than 30 known caves, stands of hardwood trees in a stunning landscape, and a diverse ecological environment supporting wildlife of all kinds. This donated land will be named the Charles B. Henson Preserve at Johnsons Crook, honoring the memory of Chuck Henson, a long-time caver and benefactor to the Conservancy. His recognition of the risks of development to the fragile systems of Johnsons 

For over six years, Georgia-Alabama Land Trust worked to protect many parcels in the failed development as they became available, through the acquisition of land and through conservation easements. It now holds a permanent conservation easement on all of the land in the Henson Preserve. The Land Trust’s Johnson's Crook Project was accomplished through private and corporate donations, and support from foundations such as the Open Space Institute's Northwest Georgia Land Protection Fund. Open Space Institute’s Northwest Georgia Land Protection Fund is made possible with funding from the Lyndhurst Foundation and the Benwood Foundation. The Northwest Georgia Land Protection Fund seeks to build capacity of land trusts working to protect ecologically significant landscapes in northwest Georgia.

“I can’t tell you how thrilled I am that this project all came together,” said Katherine Eddins, Executive Director of Georgia-Alabama Land Trust. “The importance of preserving Johnson’s Crook first came to my attention fifteen years ago, and it has been gratifying to see land once slated for development preserved in its natural state.”

Crook and the opportunity for conservation began the efforts to protect the land and make the preserve a reality.

“The partnership with the Land Trust has made it possible for this natural resource to be protected and enjoyed forever by cavers, hikers, and other outdoor enthusiasts,” said Ray Knott, Executive Director of SCCi. “The Conservancy wants the Henson Preserve to be an asset to Dade County and the North Georgia community.”

Cave on Henson Preserve Courtesy of Alan CresslerImage Courtesy of Alan Cressler

The Conservancy will work with community partners to develop a master plan for the Henson Preserve. “Conserving this amount of land comes with a lot of responsibility and cost. Stewardship, trails, and basic recreation structures can be costly. We will need the input and support of many partners to make the Henson Preserve a North Georgia destination,” stated Knott.

About Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi): SCCi is the world’s largest land conservancy solely dedicated to saving caves. SCCi protects more than 170 caves on 4,500 acres in six southeastern states. Founded in 1991, SCCi is a 501(c)3 charitable organization. To learn more about SCCi and wild cave conservation, visit www.SaveYourCaves.org.

About Georgia-Alabama Land Trust: The Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, Inc. is a nonprofit conservation organization that actively works to protect and steward land. We are the largest land trust that services the Southeastern region of the United States. For more information on protecting land in Alabama and Georgia, visit www.GeorgiaAlabamaLandTrust.org.

We would like to invite SCCi memebers and their guests to join us for the 2019 Member Appreciation Day at Fricks Cave Preserve. If you are coming, please follow the RSVP instructions at the end of this email.

WHENSaturday, February 9th. Drop in any time between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM.

WHEREFricks Cave Preserve, 1510 Fricks Gap Road, Chickamauga GA 30707

The cookout will begin at 11:30 am Eastern and food will be served until we run out. We encourage you to visit the cave; have a burger or hot dog; and visit with friends.

Primitive camping is available on Friday and Saturday nights. Signs will be posted directing you to campsites. For more information on camping or caving at Fricks Cave, contact the preserve management team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by calling ET Davis at 423-667-9946.

Please note:

  • Anyone entering the cave must bring their own helmets, headlamps, and all appropriate caving gear. All gear must be clean in accordance with the SCCi Clean Caving Procedures. This requirement is to prevent the unintentional introduction of foreign bacteria, fungus, and other microscopic life forms into the highly sensitive cave environment. Anyone who does not have appropriate gear, or whose gear has not been cleaned as described above, will not be allowed to enter the cave. Because the fungus that causes White Nose Syndrome in bats has been confirmed in Fricks Cave, anyone visiting the cave must also clean and disinfect their gear before visiting any other caves.
  • There are no guided caving trips; at least one member of each group must have sufficient caving skills and experience that they can navigate their group through the complex passages of this wild cave on their own.
  • Visitors to the cave should dress appropriately: Fricks Cave is a stream cave, and can be very cold and wet in winter, even when it is warm outside. The water flowing through the cave will be cold; visitors should expect to get wet at least up to an adult's knees, and may also get quite muddy; polypropylene or other synthetic underwear as a base layer will help reduce the very real potential for hypothermia.
  • Anyone planning to visit the cave should plan to have a complete set of dry and warm clothes to change into after visiting the cave. There are no indoor facilities at the preserve.


We hope that you will make plans to join us for this unique opportunity!

Love bats? Every year on Member Appreciation Day, Katrina Morris from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources conducts a bat survey in Fricks Cave. This year she has offered to have 10 people tag along with her while she works and explains what she does. She will start around 9 am. If you are interested in joining her, please send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to reserve your spot in addition to RSVPing below.

RSVP PROCESS

This year we are combining the RSVP process with the release signing process. The link below is to the online release form for this event. Each adult should sign their own release. After clicking on the link, click NEXT while reading through the release. Parents/guardians with minor children should add the minor's name in the minor box. One minor's name per line. 

https://permits.scci.org/release-form.html?wic_release___permit_id=8681

Upon arrival, we will confirm you have signed the online release and give you a wrist band. All attendees (caving or not) should sign the release.

This process will save trees by not printing releases and speed up the sign-in process. If you have any questions or difficulties, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi), the largest land conservancy in the world solely focused on protecting wild caves, recently announced the award of two grants through its annual Science Award Program. Scientific research is an integral part of SCCi’s work. It is essential to conserving cave and karst resources.

"Buying caves to preserve and protect them is a noble endeavor. It is what SCCi is known for.” Says Dr. George Veni, Executive Director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute and President, International Union of Speleology. “But effective preservation and protection is often impossible without good scientific research to identify needs and best management practices. SCCi's Science Awards Program helps assure their caves are sustainably managed, and supports both established and young scientists' focus on much needed cave and karst research."

This year’s science award recipients are:

(1) Drs. Cathy Borer and Angela Poole, of the Department of Biology, Berry College in Rome, Georgia for “Molecular identification of plant roots” to be conducted at Howard’s Waterfall Cave Preserve, Georgia.  The researchers will develop and test molecular techniques needed to identify plant species of roots that are exposed in cave walls and ceilings.  The researchers note that root physiological studies done at the land surface are difficult to conduct without damaging roots and influencing their physiological processes while exposing them for study.  However, roots exposed in caves allow for easy access to plant roots for study and most importantly they can be sampled with minimal damage to the root system for analyses. In order to properly study root physiology, the plant species must be identified first.  Thus, this study will develop and test molecular techniques to identify the plant species from root samples. The SCCi has awarded $1,500 to support this important research.

(2) Joe Lamb and Dr. Yong Wang, of the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Alabama, for "Abiotic factors influencing cave use by salamanders in northern Alabama.”  This study forms part of Joe Lamb’s M.S. thesis.  The researchers note that cave salamanders have strict environmental tolerances (temperature, humidity), and that their abundance and diversity are an indicator of the health of a cave environment and perhaps the ecosystem health of forest systems surrounding caves.  Joe and Dr. Wang will determine salamander abundance, density, and diversity in the near-surface parts of Tumbling Rock Cave Preserve in Alabama.  The SCCi has awarded $1,500 to support this important research.

For more information about our science mission and to inquire about submitting science proposals for next year, please contact SCCi Chief Scientist, Dr. Matthew Niemiller, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

office

The Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. (SCCi), the largest land conservancy in the world solely focused on protecting wild caves, recently moved into its new office space at 2213 Fairmount Pike, Signal Mountain, TN.

The new office will allow SCCi to grow its staff and volunteer base is as it continues to acquire and protect more caves. "Our growth plans reflect 27 years of progress," says Ray Knott, Executive Director of SCCi. "Since SCCi started in a living room in Atlanta, we've come a long way in protecting more than 170 caves that span the Southeast US. But stewardship of these underground treasures is never-ending, and we need fresh ideas and more allies. With this new space, we'll be able to better foster collaboration with our donors, members, and conservation partners."

SCCi's work is vital to the effort of environmental conservation. "The Southeastern US is home to some of the most beautiful and scientifically significant caves in North America. But sadly, many of them are under threat of destruction from development or misuse. So we work to protect and preserve these caves for you, for future generations, and for the hundreds of endangered species that call them home," Knott said.

About Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc.
Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. protects and preserves caves through conservation, education, and recreation. When caves are safeguarded, fragile ecosystems are protected, historic artifacts are preserved, and endangered species thrive. SCCi is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Signal Mountain, Tennessee. Visit SaveYourCaves.org for more information.