Year at a Glance
June— Junior Rangers
October—Bats in Caves
Theme: Cave Exploration and Safety Past and Present
Introduction: In the NPS world of caves and karst, exploration and discovery are an ongoing activity. Every year, miles of cave passages are being seen and documented for the first time ever, and new species, some within new genera, are being discovered on a routine basis.
Topics: Discovery stories, surveying, mapping, science, safety…
Hashtags: #ICaveExploration #CaveSafety
Cave Exploration in the National Parks—https://www.nps.gov/articles/cave-exploration-in-the-national-parks.htm
Outside Science: Mammoth Cave Explorers—https://www.nps.gov/articles/osip33.htm
- High Adventure in Carlsbad Cavern—https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/high-adventure-in-carlsbad-cavern.htm
- Lava Beds—Cave Safely, Cave Softly
Theme: Take only pictures and leave only footprints
Introduction: Cave and karst areas are fragile and easy to impact and contaminate. Cavers and land managers share in the responsibility to take care of these areas, to manage wisely using science to provide guidance, and to make decisions that give the resources the upper hand. The future of these amazing places depends on decisions we make today.
Topics: Leave no Trace Principles, cavers motto, cave softly, what you can do
Hashtags: #CaveEthics #CaveConservation
- Lava Beds—Cave Safely, Cave Softly
- Leave No Trace Seven Principles—https://www.nps.gov/articles/leave-no-trace-seven-principles.htm
Theme: It is imperative for our health and safety to protect caves and karst landscapes
Introduction: Karst is a type of typography formed on limestone, gypsum, and other rocks that dissolve in natural acid. Karst describes landscapes characterized by caves, sinkholes, underground aquifers. In this kind of landscape, streams disappear into the ground and reappear elsewhere as large springs. About 20% of the United States is underlain by karst landscapes and 40% of fresh groundwater we use for drinking comes from karst aquifers.
Topics: Landforms, features, critical value, aquifers
- Karst Map—https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2014/1156/
Theme: Speleothems are mineral formations unique to caves
Introduction: Speleothems exhibit bizarre patterns and other-worldly forms, which give some caves a wonderland appearance. They are secondary mineral deposits that form within air-filled passageways and may be made of a variety of minerals. The most common cave mineral is calcite, but aragonite and gypsum are also common. At least 175 different minerals occur in limestone caves, a few of which have only been found in caves.
Topics: Rocks and minerals, deposition/growth, types
- GRBA Speleothems—https://www.nps.gov/grba/learn/nature/speleothems-cave-formations.htm
Mammoth Cave National Park: World Heritage Site—https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/mammoth-cave-national-park-world-heritage-site.htm
Theme: Caves Preserve Evidence of Prehistoric Life
Introduction: Caves are important environments for the preservation of fossils. Caves act as sediment traps enabling the accumulation of fossils over thousands or even millions of years, and the stable temperature and humidity of caves help to preserve fossils. Cave fossils occur in two contexts, including: 1) fossils preserved within the bedrock in the caves formed; and 2) fossil remains of Pleistocene/Holocene animals and plants which either entered or lived in caves during their lives or were transported into the caves after death. Cave fossils are subdivided into four categories: fossil plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, and trace fossils.
Topics: Fossils in cave walls, fossils of cave dwellers, discoveries, preservation environment
National Park Service Cave Paleontology—https://www.nps.gov/subjects/caves/cave-paleontology.htm
Sharks, Fossils, and Caves: Secrets Revealed at Mammoth Cave—https://www.nps.gov/subjects/fossils/paleontological-discoveries-at-mammoth-cave.htm
Rampart Cave: An Ice Age Tomb of the American Southwest—https://www.nps.gov/articles/fossils-of-the-2019-national-fossil-day-artwork.htm
An Inventory of Fossils at Carlsbad Caverns National Park—https://www.nps.gov/articles/an-inventory-of-fossils-at-carlsbad-caverns-national-park.htm
Theme: Explore caves as a Junior Ranger
Introduction: Walking, crawling, climbing, rappelling, diving—people do all these things when they explore caves. Just about any sort of person can be a caver. They can be tall or short, young or old, and live just about anywhere. There are many reasons why people cave: the thrill of exploration, the enjoyment of taking photographs, or the satisfaction of mapping cave passages. People who go caving for science are called speleologists. Some speleologist study cave animals; others study the geology of caves. There are speleologists who study underground rivers because of their importance to how caves form and to our drinking water. The next time that you visit a cave park or park’s website, look for information on their Junior Ranger program for opportunities to learn more.
Topics: Park programs, Junior Cave Scientist activity book, challenges and games
- NPS Junior Cave Scientist—https://www.nps.gov/subjects/caves/junior-cave-scientist-program.htm
- Blanket Cave National Youth Park—Activity
- Carlsbad Caverns—Be a Junior Ranger
- Wind Cave—Become a Wind Cave Junior Ranger
Theme: Caves preserve Earth’s climate history
Introduction: Daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations that occur at the surface tend to diminish as heat moves down through bedrock into caves. Cave temperatures are nearly constant throughout the year and are approximately equal to the average annual temperature at the surface. To visitors, caves may feel pleasantly cool in the summer and far warmer than the surface in the winter. On a larger scale, long-term changes to average global temperature can affect the rate that caves and speleothems form. Cave formations and fossils in caves preserve a record Earth’s history and climate and are natural laboratories for modern research.
Topics: Climate record, average temperature, sheltering wildlife, ice age records
- NPS—Climate Change
- Great Basin NP—Air Flow and Cave Climate
- Carlsbad Caverns NP—Weather and Cave Climate
- Geological Monitoring of Caves
- Cumberland Piedmont Network Parks—Cave Meteorology Monitoring
Theme: Caves and karst provide a unique subsurface habitat for rare animals
Introduction: Cave organisms can be categorized by how much time they spend in caves. They can also be segregated by where they live in caves: ceiling, walls, floor; entrance zone, twilight zone, dark zone. Beyond the twilight zone, which extends only a short distance in from the entrance, caves are completely dark. Cave animals called troglobites have adapted to total darkness and permanently live in the dark zone of caves. Their adaptations include extra-long feelers for finding their way around in the dark.
Topics: Extremophiles, blind/colorless, life zones…
Extremophiles of the Madison Aquifer—https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/madison-aquifer-microbiology.htm
Theme: Caves can form in a variety of rock types and locations
Introduction: Lava tubes or caves are hollow spaces beneath the surface of a solidified lava flow. When molten, fluid lava flows out of a volcano, it works its way downhill. In contact with air, the surface of this lava stream cools and hardens into a crust. The lava inside remains molten, however, and continues to flow downhill. When the molten lava eventually drains out of the interior of the hard-crusted passage, a lava tube or cave remains.
Topics: Formation, features, examples
- Hawai'i Volcanoes—Lava Tube Formation (video)
Theme: Cave Habitat and the Role of Bats in Nature
Introduction: Many national parks have bats. In fact, more than 50 species of bats live in national parks in trees, in caves, and in old mines and other manmade structures. In many areas, bat habitat is being lost to urban development, but National Parks preserve many important bat caves. Some bats like certain caves for raising their young and other caves for winter hibernation. See Bat Week Facts—All About Bats.
Topics: Species, roost types, benefits, White-nose Syndrome
Bats in Caves—https://www.nps.gov/articles/bats-in-caves.htm
- Bat Conservation International—https://www.batcon.org/
- Celebrate Bat Week October 24 - 31, 2021!
Theme: Cave and Karst Systems Supply Fresh Water
Introduction: Cave and karst resources are valued for the large amounts of freshwater they contain. The National Park Service (NPS) manages over 4,700 caves including 4 out of the longest 6 in the world and karst landscapes that encompass some of the largest freshwater springs in North America.
Topics: Aquifers, drinking water, surface development, springs and sinking streams
- NPS—Caves and Aquifers
- Following Water Movement Using Dye Tracing—https://www.nps.gov/articles/000/dye-tracing-wind-cave.htm
Theme: Since prehistoric times, people have used caves for many purposes
Introduction: Caves preserve a variety of archeological resources such as rock art, historical signatures, and more. People have long used caves as dwelling places, burial sites, storehouses, and places of worship. Protected from the sun and elements, caves usually have stable temperatures and high humidity that can preserve artifacts for thousands of years.
Topics: Cultural resources, human use, artifacts…
Hidden History: Tuberculosis in Mammoth Cave—https://www.nps.gov/articles/tuberculosis-mammoth-cave.htm
Floyd Collins Homestead—https://www.nps.gov/places/floyd-collins-homestead.htm
- Old Guide's Cemetery—https://www.nps.gov/places/old-guide-s-cemetery.htm
- Russell Cave—Junior Archeologist Book
Last updated: September 15, 2021