Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


BARTON, Hazel A., Departments of Biology and Geosciences, University of Akron, 185 E. Mill St, University of Akron - Biology, Akron, OH 44325-3908,

Without huge logistical or government support, there are few places on Earth that remain open to exploration by the common man. Caves are one of them. With nothing more than the investment of a helmet, good light and old clothes, it is possible for the average person to place the first footprints in a huge chamber never seen before with human eyes. It is this lure of the unknown that has drawn humans to caves, from our Neolithic ancestors who worshiped these spaces, to Édouard-Alfred Martell who began the science of cave exploration over 100 years ago. The discoveries made in caves ultimately led to more questions that they answered, and through their passion for these environments, cave explorers became trained scientists and the modern science of speleology was born. But expeditions do more than allow the discovery of larger and deeper cave systems, they bring explorers from various disciplines together, placing chemist next to geologist and geologist next to biologist. It was my own experiences caving alongside geologists and geochemists that changed my understanding of caves, and through my understanding of microbiology, changed for my geologic peers their understanding of how caves could form. In turn, through the desire of cavers to explore caves and, in the process describe what they have found, we are helping to change the science of microbiology itself.