Paper No. 35
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM
Karst Field School and Research Experience: Undergraduate Involvement in the 16th International Karstological School and Geomicrobiology Research in Slovenia
Karst landscapes are characterized by underground drainage and cave development. Karst is important globally because 25% of the world's population takes water from karst aquifers and some of the most productive hydrocarbon reservoirs are in karst. The word karst is German for the Kras region of western Slovenia. As an extension of an existing research project, upper-division undergraduates from Louisiana State University were selected (based on interest, GPA, and relationship to major) to participate in the International Karst Field School course. Course goals included (1) applying relevant terminology in karst geo- and bioscience, (2) identifying and evaluating chemical, genetic, and hydrologic changes in karst that relate to landscape development, climate records, and biological evolution, (3) gaining an appreciation of Slovenian culture and educational system, (4) developing skills for becoming a better scientist through guided research and learning, and (5) demonstrating proficiency in written and oral communication. As part of the course, students participated in the 16th International Karstological School in Postojna, Slovenia, organized by the Karst Research Institute Scientific Research Centre at ZRC SAZU. Prior to the trip, students read karst literature, learned about Slovenian history and culture, and discussed field practices and research. The Karstological School provided students with opportunities to interact with karst researchers and students from all over the world, as well as to gain experience in cave exploration and research. Following the Karstological School and in collaboration with Karst Research Institute scientists, students conducted geomicrobiological field work to investigate the microbial diversity of karst and thermal springs. Course assessment incorporated a progress and reflective portfolio assignment, which uniquely enhanced communication abilities and their knowledge about karst science. The field school also gave students sufficient experience to lead field trips, as well as skills needed to conduct independent research for undergraduate theses.