New Volunteer Chief Scientist Elected

New Volunteer Chief Scientist Elected


SCCi's Volunteer Chief Scientist is board elected to provide guidance on conservation goals for the organization and reviews permit requests to conduct research on SCCi preserves. This vital role depends on extensive experience in conservation as well as a corresponding field of cave science such as hydrology, geology, biology, etc.

Serving the next term will be Dr. Hazel Barton, a professor and Director of the Integrated Bioscience program at the University of Akron. Her research focuses on understanding microbial interactions and adaptations to starvation in caves. Dr. Barton also investigates the role the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans plays in the White-nose Syndrome epidemic in bats, which has been funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Her work has been featured in Sports Illustrated, Forbes, National Geographic Explorer, Outside, Science News, The Scientist, Popular Mechanics, Wired, Geo and The Smithsonian magazines, in the book Extreme Scientists: Exploring Natures Mysteries from Perilous Places, on NPR and BBC Radio, on Animal Planet, the History Channel, National Geographic National Geographic, the CBS Early Show, BBC TV and in the IMAX movie Journey into Amazing Caves.

You can learn more about Dr. Barton's research here:

We would like to thank our most recent Volunteer Chief Scientist, Dr. Jan Simek for serving 3 years and sharing his expertise in the archeological value of caves. Dr. Simek is the foremost authority of Cherokee syllabary and has served at the University of Tennessee as Head of the Anthropology Department, as the 24th President of the University of Tennessee, and was named President Emeritus by the Board of Trustees when he stepped down from that position. In 2001, Dr. Simek was named Distinguished Professor of Science in the UTK College of Arts and Sciences. We are grateful for his service and contributions to SCCi.

SCCi Plans To Purchase Sinkhole Cave in Marion County, TN

SCCi Plans To Purchase Sinkhole Cave in Marion County, TN

Update: Thanks to the support of 200 generous donors and an especially generous gift from The Lyndhurst Foundation, $177,992 was raised to fund the purchase and protection of Kelly Cove-Sinkhole Preserve.

When word came through that a decades long closed pit in Marion County, TN was up for sale, SCCi knew this was a unique opportunity to protect and reopen an incredible pit... 

Nearly 50 years ago, a crew of Chattanooga area cavers caught word of a few unexplored holes along a ridge just off I-24 in Marion County, TN. Walking along the ridge, it was a cool day in early March when not even the trillium had poked through the leaf litter. The forest surrounding them was mixed oak and hickory with tulip poplar and beech spread throughout; typical of a southeastern mixed hardwood forest. Spotting a cave at this time of year can be difficult. All the cool breezes consistently blowing easily mask the tell-tale breath of a cave. However, the crisp air and lack of foliage gave them the advantage of higher visibility. Navigating through the trees and occasional embedded rock exposed at the surface, they soon caught a glimpse of water pouring off rocks before it disappeared into the ground...

Sinkhole Past

Although only a short distance from the busy highway, the roar of a waterfall crashing 164 feet into a pit drowned out the sounds of any passing vehicles. 

It was 1975 and these ridgewalkers had just discovered Sinkhole.

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 Photo Credit Bob Biddix

For the next 20 years, cavers from the southeast and beyond journeyed to experience the pit. The L shaped cave was rapidly becoming a favorite due to it's ease of access and rich biological surroundings. As it gained in popularity, the land was beginning to show how loved it was becoming, with saplings, shrubs and wildflowers retreating to less trodden parts of the property. As the roots gave way to boots, compaction and erosion became major issues, causing concern for the landowner and caver, Harry White. Much to the dismay of the caving community Harry shared in a letter to Speleo Themes  on September 6, 1994 that Sinkhole was closed to cavers. 

Nearly 30 years later, SCCi has the opportunity to reopen the cave for responsible recreation and protect and manage its biological resources.

With your support this property can be protected and re-opened for responsible recreation. 

Visit to learn more and donate.