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.