Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM


NORTH, Leslie, Center for Human-GeoEnvironmental Studies, Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #31066, Bowling Green, KY 42101, TYRIE, Elizabeth, Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Blvd, Bowling Green, KY 42101 and POLK, Jason, Center for Human-GeoEnvironmental Studies, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #31066, Bowling Green, KY 42101,

Annually, show caves are accessed by millions of tourists, each seeking a glimpse into the mysterious world of caves. Yet, what many visitors fail to realize is that in many instances they are also accessing sensitive, resource-rich karst landscapes. Since majority of the general populace is unfamiliar with karst terrains, the resources they provide, or their sensitivity to human action, show caves are necessary avenues for disseminating such information and, consequently, helping to sustain the health of the landscapes. From 2010-2013, a selection of show caves in the United States and Europe were investigated to establish whether karst-related concepts are presented to cave guests, how the organizational structure of show caves differs in the US and Europe (where sustainability is commonly emphasized), how management differences impact the educational quality of tours, and the learning outcomes of guided cave tours. To achieve these goals, outcomes assessments were distributed to visitors at participating show caves, tours were digitally recorded and analyzed through a process of content analysis, guide behaviors during tours were video recorded and categorized, non-guided interpretative materials were reviewed, and semi-structured interviews with show caves managers were conducted. Among other findings, the results of this preliminary study suggest the presence of a European model of show cave management, which more strongly encourages the sustainability of cave and karst recourses and results in more informed cave visitors. For instance, compared to in Europe, the word ‘karst’ and other karst-specific concepts are less frequently discussed during show caves tours in the United States. Guides at participating European show caves tended to engage with guests through probing questions and visual cues during tours more frequently than guides in the US. Lastly, differences in organizational structure, interpretation strategies, and sustainability-focused goals in Europe has a positive impact on promoting karst knowledge and reveals beneficial elements that could be implemented in other karst regions across the globe, including the US. All of society has something to gain from sharing knowledge about effective show cave practices since doing so promotes the sustainable future of karst resources.