Va Cave Week

Presented by friends of the Virginia Cave Board

This year we are celebrating Virginia Cave Week
June 6 - 12, 2021
& IYCK on May 8



International Year of Caves and Karst


International Year of Caves and Karst Web Site

The Secrets of Caves, Critters, and Rocks

An International Year of Caves and Karst Virtual Event

May 8, 2021, Schedule:

  • 9:00 a.m.

    1. Introduction and Housekeeping (Q&As after most except the first session. Put questions in the Q&A box during the virtual event. 5 to 10 minute bio break at the end of each session, etc.)
    2. IYCK Video (see side bar to right)
    3. Cave Exploration: The Last Frontier by Yvonne Droms and Mark Minton (will be prerecorded with questions answered later). [abstract]
  • 10:00 a.m.

  • What's Beneath Our Feet: The Geologic History of the Shenandoah Valley Karst Region by Dan Doctor. [abstract]

  • 11:00 a.m.

    Driftless Area Karst Conservation Task Force (DARK) by Dawn Ryan. [abstract]

  • 12:00 noon

    30 minute break for lnnch

    12:30 p.m.

    Dyeing in the Driftless: Karst, Dye Tracing, and Groundwater Flow in Minnesota’s Driftless Area by Jeff Green. [abstract]

  • 1:30 p.m.

  • History of Grand Caverns and Cave Hill by Jim McConkey. [abstract]

  • 2:30 p.m.

  • Virginia's Beautiful Bats by Leslie Sturges. Click here for abstract. [abstract]

  • 3:30 p.m.

  • The Secret Life of Caves by Katarina Kosič Ficco. Click here for abstract. [abstract]

  • 4:30 p.m.

  • Thanks, and Good-byes

Click here for Zoom Call in Info


Cave Exploration: The Last Frontier

Cave exploration is one of the last frontiers of terrestrial exploration left on Earth. Caves are very exciting because they are physically challenging but hidden from sight; their mysteries can only be revealed by visiting them in person. Best of all, caving is relatively accessible so that even people of modest means can pursue it. We will provide an introduction to caves, where to find them, how to explore them safely, and some of the hidden wonders they have to offer.


Yvonne Droms started caving in 1967 in Portugal. After moving to the USA, she joined the National Speleological Society in 1985 and has been caving avidly ever since. She is very active in the exploration and survey of the extensive cave systems of Virginia and West Virginia. Since 2001, she has also participated in many expeditions to the deepest caves of the Western Hemisphere, located in Mexico. Yvonne has given keynote presentations at banquets and has published numerous articles about her caving explorations in various parts of the world.

Mark Minton has over 50 years caving experience in many of the major cave regions of the United States and Mexico. He also participated in three paleontological expeditions to the caves of Madagascar, which visited that country’s deepest and longest caves. He has been a leader and/or member of many expeditions to the deepest caves in the Western Hemisphere, including five caves over 1,000 meters deep, one of which he discovered. Mark continues to be very active in original cave exploration in Virginia, West Virginia, and Mexico and has had over 300 articles published in various caving journals.



What’s Beneath Our Feet: The Geologic History of the Shenandoah Valley Karst Region

This presentation will provide a general overview of the geologic history of karst development in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, and will also explore some implications for managing the rich water resources within the karst landscape.


Dr. Daniel H. Doctor is the current chair of the Virginia Cave Board. Dan Doctor received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Minnesota in karst hydrogeology, and currently serves as a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He has conducted geological mapping and specialized studies of Virginias karst areas for more than a decade.



Driftless Area Karst Conservation Task Force (DARK)

The Driftless Area is one of the most interesting and unique geologic regions in the Midwest and covers nearly 10,000 square miles in parts of Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Its Paleozoic bedrock forms the karst terrain that includes deep river valleys such as the Mississippi, sinkholes, disappearing streams, caves, springs, and limestone bluffs. These karst resources provide scenic and recreational opportunities across the Driftless Area. It is also an important agricultural area where land use on karst can create a whole gamut of water quality problems.

With this understanding and knowing the International Year of Caves and Karst was upon us, we created the Driftless Area Karst (DARK) Conservation Task Force. The Driftless Area Karst Conservation Task Force is a group of state organizations, researchers, and citizen scientists partnered with the National Speleological Society to create a Karst Trail through the Driftless Area. DARK’s mission is to educate citizens about the existence and significance of karst features and terrains through the development of the Driftless Area Karst Trail.


Dawn Ryan (NSS 50407RL FE) began her caving career over 20 years ago helping to survey and inventory caves in the Midwest, including Mammoth Cave; California; and Puerto Rico. For over a decade she served on the National Speleological Society (NSS) Membership Committee. Ryan is a Fellow and Life member of the NSS and Fellow of the Cave Research Foundation. Ryan served as a national park ranger at Sequoia and Kings Canyon Nation Parks and Grand Canyon National Park for over 10 years. Recently, Ryan couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to the Midwest and get paid to go caving, which prompted her decision to manage Mystery Cave in Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park, Preston, Minnesota.



Dyeing in the Driftless: Karst, Dye Tracing, and Groundwater Flow in Minnesota’s Driftless Area

In Minnesota, there have been ongoing efforts to inform our citizens about karst land and water resources and their unique characteristics and vulnerabilities. We will view the newest product, a series of videos; we then will discuss hydrology and how it affects the very water we drink.


Jeff Green is a Groundwater Hydrologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Rochester, Minnesota. He has been working on karst and groundwater issues in southeast Minnesota since 1990. His primary areas of emphasis are karst groundwater investigations, fluorescent dye tracing, spring hydrology investigations, and limestone and sandstone quarry hydrology. These efforts are done to provide technical assistance to local units of government, state government staff, and the citizens of Minnesota. He has designed and conducted more than 250 fluorescent dye traces for spring catchment mapping and aquifer characterization in the Paleozoic bedrock of southeast Minnesota and elsewhere. He has an M.S. in Water Resources Management and a B.S. with Distinction in Soil Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and is licensed as a Professional Geologist by the State of Minnesota. Internationally, he has done groundwater investigations in the Andean foothills and Brazilian Shield areas in the Santa Cruz Department of Bolivia and has done a water resource investigation for a clinic/school/church facility in the Kitui District of Kenya. He has been an invited speaker at conferences and events in Minnesota, the USA, and internationally.



History of Grand Caverns and Cave Hill

Grand Caverns, formerly known as Weyers Cave, is the longest continuously operating show cave in the United States and is one of the most impressive caves on the East Coast. Cave Hill, which contains Grand Caverns, also contains two other formerly commercial caves and about 20 other smaller caves. Madisons Cave, first made known to the world by Thomas Jefferson in 1782, was one of the few caves known worldwide at the time, and rapidly became an international tourist destination because of Jefferson’s description. Cave of the Fountains, originally discovered in 1835, was quickly forgotten but reopened to great acclaim after the Civil War. The distinctive geology of Cave Hill makes this a unique area of speleothem formation. This talk will cover the early history of commercial cave visitation, the situation and local geology of Cave Hill, the discovery and exploration of Grand Caverns, and highlight a few of Cave Hill’s most important caves.


Jim McConkey has been caving almost 50 years, having started in college in upstate New York. He is currently chair of Sligo Grotto, vice chair of Baltimore Grotto, and serves as treasurer and web master for a number of National Speleological Society internal organizations including the Virginia Region (VAR). He is a regular at regional conservation projects and has managed Silers Cave in the West Virginia panhandle for over 30 years. In addition, he has worked on many cave videos as a lighting specialist and has been heavily involved in spelean history. During the white-nose syndrome and COVID crises, he has been researching and documenting the caves and rock shelters of eastern Maryland, an area without limestone!

Jim has been involved in the VAR’s Grand Caverns Restoration project since its inception 35 years ago. When the park asked the VAR to remap the cave for its bicentennial, Jim led the surface survey, rediscovered several lost caves, and discovered a number of previously unknown or forgotten caves in the process. He has done extensive research on the history of Grand Caverns and the other caves of Cave Hill in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.



Virginia’s Beautiful Bats

Whether underground or in the field and forest, Virginia is home to 16 species of bats. Learn a little about what bats are doing in the summer skies, which species might be found where, and meet a bat ambassador. Bring your questions!


Leslie Sturges has been a wildlife enthusiast all her life. One of her earliest memories is feeding grass stems to a nest full of almost-weaned meadow voles she discovered in her backyard. She housed snakes, turtles, lizards, frogs, and insects before becoming a zookeeper with the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park. She left the zoo for a position as a park naturalist in a large suburban park system. In 2001, Leslie opened Bat World NOVA, a satellite rescue center of Bat World Sanctuary, so that she could pursue a love of bats. In 2011, she founded The Save Lucy Campaign to focus on white-nose syndrome, bats native to the eastern US, youth advocacy, and conservation education through art. Over the past 20 years, she has cared for well over 1,000 bats and maintains a collection of bats that visit schools and other venues to educate the public about bats and wildlife conservation.

Leslie Sturges
The Save Lucy Campaign



The Secret Life of Caves

The first observations and studies about karst and its phenomena go back for over 400 years. The so-called birthplace of karst science is the classical Kras (eng. Karst) of Slovenia, which is part of the bigger Dinaric karst that extends uninterruptedly for over 105,000 km2 and includes seven countries. Due to the long history of exploration and scientific observations, the Dinaric karst is one of the world’s best-studied karst areas. As one of the world’s most significant biological hotspots, it is of particular interest to both scientists and collectors.

So what about karst areas that have received less attention? Virginia karst, for example, with its 48,000 km2, covers a much smaller area. Plus, it is additionally limited by high compartmentalization, which causes extensive geographic restriction of cave habitats. It can be viewed as tiny islands of karst in a sea of non-soluble rock. However, these islands present us with over 100 cave-adapted species and a another of the world’s subterranean biology hotspots. Some of the species are only known from Virginia, and in some instances, from a single cave or spring. Join us and learn the cost of biologic fame, how these two karst terrains differentiate from each other, how these little creatures help us understand karst, and how we can understand and protect them.


Katarina Kosič Ficco is a karst protection specialist for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, in the Natural Heritage’s karst program. She is combining her B.S. in Political Science and Ph.D. in Karstology to successfully perform evaluation and protection of karst terrains and bring knowledge about karst, and the need for its protection, to a broader audience inside and outside of karst science. Through her doctoral dissertation, she developed a framework for protecting karst aquifers, which combines scientific, regulatory, and socio-political elements. In addition to her professional caving activities, she is a keen cave explorer and has joined multiple caving expeditions in the USA and Europe. Many of these include both scientific and exploratory objectives.


Zoom Info

Below find the Zoom meeting information to join us for our virtual event, The Secrets of Caves, Critters, and Rocks! Please try to watch in groups - either families or classes. One log-in per family or class because there is a limit.

We will record each talk and post later on this website, so all is not lost if you don't make it on May 8.

Thanks for your interest in caves and karst!

Zoom Information

Virginia Cave Boardís and NSS Virginia Regionís International Year of Caves and Karst Event: The Secrets of Caves, Critters, and Rocks!

May 8, 2021 09:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 838 7998 9488

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IYCK Video



Grand Caverns

Maxwelton Sink Cave, WV - photo by Dave Socky




Maxwelton Sink Cave, WV. Chris Coates in Sweetwater. photo by Dave Socky