New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting — Abstracts

Learn, Connect, Protect: The National Cave and Karst Research Institute’s 2024 Education and Outreach Program

Devra E. Heyer1 and Daniel S. Jones2

1National Cave & Karst Research Institute, 400-1 Cascades Avenue, Carlsbad, NM, 88220,
2Department of Earth and Environmental Science, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, 801 Leroy Pl, Socorro, NM, 87801

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The key to protecting sensitive resources is to see its value and to understand our interdependence with it. The goal of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) education and outreach program is to provide interdisciplinary resources that illuminate these seldom seen, interconnected landforms while providing easily accessible information. Due to the multidisciplinary nature of cave and karst, outreach events range from online based initiatives such as Cave Week to local (karst) waterway cleanups to family functions teaching K-12 science standards while learning cave survey techniques.

Our audience is divided into people living with caves and karst, those furthering the understanding of these environments and those entering cave environments. We try to reach these audiences by creating resources for formal and informal education using images that imbue connection and interpretive materials that scales down jargon rich subject matter. Technical cave resource protection procedures are created based on audience needs, with visual examples and additional learner-centered content. One such example was the building of a gear decontamination station with additional interpretive materials that were used at the National Speleological Society’s annual convention. This interagency initiative’s goal was to instruct participants in cave conservation practices while making a White-nose Syndrome decontamination procedure that could easily be reproducible at other events or even a person’s home.

In another initiative, NCKRI has been supporting student research opportunities in cave and karst science at NMT through an undergraduate fellowship program that so far has included students in the Earth Science, Biology, and Mechanical Engineering departments. Recently, we expanded this program to support two undergraduates to participate in a scientific expedition to explore new caves in the Tongass National Forest, Alaska. In this presentation, we will discuss these and other initiatives, as well as ongoing and future plans to develop curriculum pieces that use caves as a classroom, providing support to our public land partners in creating educational materials, and expanding the interpretive displays at NCKRI's headquarters.

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2024 New Mexico Geological Society Annual Spring Meeting
April 19, 2024, Macey Center, Socorro, NM
Online ISSN: 2834-5800