Riverways Volunteers Receive National Speleological Award

Award Winners
Mick Sutton (left) and Scott House (right) receive Lew Bicking Award, presented by Bill Steele (center)

Missouri Speleological Survey

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News Release Date: September 23, 2016

Contact: Dena Matteson, 573-323-4814

VAN BUREN, MO: Two long-time volunteers at Ozark National Scenic Riverways have been recognized with a national award for their efforts in cave research and preservation in Missouri. Scott House and Mick Sutton of the Cave Research Foundation have been awarded the Lew Bicking Award for contributions to cave exploration and mapping.

The Lew Bicking Award is presented annually by the National Speleological Society and is one of the highest honors a caver can receive. House and Sutton were honored with the award for their immeasurable contributions to Missouri speleology, through the exploration and survey of hundreds of Missouri caves. In addition, they have been fundamental in orchestrating highly productive and mutually beneficial cooperative relationships between land management agencies in the Ozarks and the regional project caving community through the Cave Research Foundation.

The Cave Research Foundation is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to forming partnerships and facilitating research, management and interpretation of caves and karst resources in order to promote their long term conservation. The organization works cooperatively with Ozark National Scenic Riverways to manage cave resources within park boundaries. House plays a key role in the park's cave management program as the Ozark Operations Manager for the Cave Research Foundation. Both House and Sutton have been involved with cave management in the Riverways as park volunteers and through their work with Cave Research Foundation.

"We're very pleased to see Scott and Mick being recognized by NSS with this award," said Riverways Superintendent Larry Johnson. "They've both been indispensable to helping us manage our significant cave resources and we appreciate all they have done." 

Ozark National Scenic Riverways was established in 1964 by an enabling act of Congress which noted that caves and springs were integral parts of the park. In 1980, House, a speleologist and fulltime 6th grade teacher, took a special interest in the park's caves. At that time there were only approximately 78 known caves within the park boundary. As a member of the Missouri Speleological Survey, House could be found on the weekends within any given park cave meandering his way through an entirely different kind of "classroom." Over the past 30 plus years, he has played a critical role in almost every aspect of the park's cave and karst management program. 

House and Sutton have worked side by side for nearly three decades mapping, surveying and inventorying park caves with great attention to detail. Their systematic cave exploration techniques have provided vital and extensive data about cave and karst features, as well as the living organisms that inhabit those areas. Contributions made by Mick throughout the 1990s provided hundreds of records of invertebrate identifications and observations, including the discovery of a very rare terrestrial trechine carabid beetle. Together they endeavored to redesign and expand the park's resource database for caves and biological records, which served as the inspiration to develop a similar database for multiple state, federal and private conservation land managers. 

Today, 410 known caves are recorded within Ozark National Scenic Riverways, making it one of the most densely cavernous national park units. A majority of these have either been discovered and/or surveyed by both House and Sutton. They have long exemplified a level of commitment to cave discovery and survey work that serves as a model for others. 

House and Sutton were honored at the 2016 National Speleological Society Convention in Ely, Nevada. 

Ozark National Scenic Riverways preserves the free-flowing Current and Jacks Fork Rivers, the surrounding resources, and the unique cultural heritage of the Ozark people. 

-NPS-

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Last updated: September 25, 2016

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