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.
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.
SCCi, in cooperation with the Huntsville Grotto, is proud to announce that nominations are open for the 2017 John Van Swearingen IV Stewardship Award! The award was conceived by the Huntsville Grotto in honor of long-time member, conservationist, cave steward, and SCCi Director, JV, who passed away in 2001. It is presented annually at the TAG Fall Cave In.
The following basic safety information is provided with permission from the National Speleological Society. To learn more about caving or find a local grotto (chapter) of the National Speleological Society visit www.caves.org. While you are there, become a member!
Basic Safety Information
There are several versions of cave safety guidelines. Having adequate training and reliable equipment are the main points in each one. Safe use of equipment can be achieved only by sharing information, teaching and demonstrations. Chances of being injured are reduced by awareness of dangers and by knowledge of your equipment and techniques.
Statistically, caving accidents are mostly attributed to poor judgment, little or no caving experience and falls. The most common causes of caving accidents include: falling, being struck by falling objects and hypothermia.
Falling: To reduce the risk of falling, one should avoid jumping and uncontrolled sliding down slopes, wear proper footwear, check and discard any faulty or worn vertical equipment and obtain proper training. When caving, you should always try to have three points of contact when moving over uneven ground. This means having three points on your body supported on immovable objects to stabilize your body while moving through difficult areas.
Falling Objects: Injury caused by falling objects are best avoided by always wearing a helmet. It is best to stay clear of the base of drops and climbs. Secure all items of equipment so that they will not drop on cavers below you. Remember to always yell "ROCK!" for all falling objects, even if it's your water bottle. Saying "WATER!" will take too much time for the person to think when a second of reaction time is all they have.
Hypothermia: If the temperature drops more than a few degrees, the body can no longer function properly. Dress appropriately for the weather and carry extra clothing or something that can protect you from the cold. The first signs of hypothermia are fatigue, drowsiness, exhaustion, unwillingness to go on, feeling cold, poor coordination and stumbling.
Other Hazards: Not all caving problems involve injuries. A few people do get lost in caves, become stuck or are unable to climb up a ledge or rope to get out of the cave. Exhaustion and a lack of light (or light failure) may cause someone to become lost who might otherwise have found their way out of the cave.
A Closer Look Into Safety
As you plan to go on a cave trip, there are several things you should include in your pre-trip planning. Proper preparation will help you have a safe trip and will give some amount of protection against the many dangers of being under ground.
The mere fact that you are interested in caving implies that you are probably comfortable with some level of risk and are somewhat comfortable with the unknown. These are good things, but a person preparing for a cave trip considers the risks, tries to anticipate the problems and thinks about the unknowns. No one wants to have a problem while we are under ground, but we should never go into the cave without at least taking a few minutes to think about the things that can go wrong on our trip.
NEVER Cave Alone
This is dangerous, fool hardy and is a sure recipe for a disaster. The smallest size group recommend is four people. With this number, if someone is hurt, one person can stay and comfort the injured and the other two can get help.
There are several things that should be discussed with people who have never been underground before. Discussing the following points with them will help them be mentally prepared, safer and have a better experience.
Every caving trip requires the same basic equipment and supplies. These items include light, head protection (helmet), food, water, first aid kit and proper clothing.
Caving responsibly involves planning a trip, moving through the cave safely and returning on time. You and your partners are responsible for protecting yourselves and the caves you visit.
Tell Someone Your Plans
Establish a time to be out of the cave and a contact person who knows this information. Notify a reliable person about your caving plans, including the name, the location of the cave you are visiting and your estimated time of return. Agree on what to do if you do not return on time. He or she should understand that they will be the person to call for help if you have not checked in with them after the trip should have ended. If you exit the cave after your estimated exit time contact this person as soon as possible to prevent an unnecessary rescue.
A good group size is four to six people. Groups larger than six tend to be slow and difficult to manage, so divide a larger group of cavers into separate groups. Each group should have at least one, preferably two, people who are familiar with the cave and good caving skills and practices.
Alertness and Challenges
When caving it is important to remain clear headed. Drugs, including alcohol, that affect your alertness, judgment or ability to think clearly make you a threat to your group’s safety.
Everyone going on the trip should be physically and mentally ready for the challenges that will be associated with the trip. He or she will also need to have the skills required for the kind of cave. For example, does someone have a limiting medical condition? Is someone claustrophobic and you are going on a tight trip? Will everyone on a vertical trip understand on-rope techniques like a change over? The bottom line is, if you think that you or someone else on the trip is not up to challenges that you will be encountering, it is far better to bring it up before a serious problem arises inside the cave.
A novice’s apprehension before a caving trip is healthy and an awareness of possible hazards helps you avoid them. Here are some of the dangers of caving.