Park Cave Conservation Topic at International Conference

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Date: July 14, 2010
Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406 888-5838
Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 406 888-7895

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – The Bigfork High School Cave Club spoke to more than 10,000 people about their cave mapping in Glacier National Park at the opening plenary session of the Environmental Sciences Research Institute (ESRI) 2010 International User Conference (UC) in San Diego on Monday, July 12, 2010. The ESRI UC is the largest and most important Geographic Information System (GIS) conference in the world.

Each year an academic group is selected to showcase how they have used Geographic Information System (GIS). The Bigfork High School (BHS) group, through a connection made with ESRI's educational branch, was selected as this year’s academic group. Charlie Fitzpatrick, Director of ESRI, which develops GIS software, says the BHS Cave Club is a great example for other schools. "We're very pleased to see this after-school club getting so involved with GIS,” said Fitzpatrick. “It proves that any teacher anywhere could start a club and help kids do powerful things with GIS. The club will be able to go farther, faster if they have a mentor or two."

The Bigfork High School Cave Club was recently awarded a 2009 President’s Environmental Youth Award (PEYA) for its commitment to cave conservation and awareness on federal lands that include Glacier National Park. This award, one of ten given nationally by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recognizes the Cave Club’s efforts towards improving the scientific understanding and protection of Glacier’s cave resources.

The Cave Club was founded in 2007 by Bigfork High School science teacher Hans Bodenhamer an experienced cave researcher and enthusiastic educator. Bodenhamer previously lead the Browning High School Cave Club, which also did a number of projects in Glacier. Bodenhamer enlisted the services of students from Bigfork High School to map cave passages, photo-document and map geologic features and to remove graffiti from cave walls. A series of resource monitoring and assessment reports published by the Cave Club now provides park resource managers invaluable baseline documentation for future monitoring. These products will help park managers in areas beyond imagination, including search and rescue and in describing the effects of global warming on aquatic communities.

“We are particularly impressed with the quality and detail of the work the Cave Club has provided,” remarked Glacier’s Chief of Science and Resource Management, Jack Potter. Potter added that the park has used Cave Club recommendations to plan future monitoring efforts towards protecting cave resources and is recommending the club to work in other parks. Potter stated, “The educational benefits of the Cave Club’s discoveries, both as information for park educational programs and to the larger scientific community, have been impressive. Some of the features identified and mapped by the Cave Club have regional geological significance, emphasizing the importance of the group’s work.”

In addition to the support of Environmental Sciences Research Institute, the Cave Club has also received donations and sponsorship from the Glacier National Park Fund, the Charlotte Martin Foundation, the Northern Rocky Mountain Grotto, Best Buy for Business and Gonzo Guano Gear.


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Last updated: March 31, 2012

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