EXPLORING SEDIMENT PATHWAYS IN HIDDEN RIVER CAVE, KENTUCKY
Research is being conducted in Hidden River Cave to determine how water and sediment are being transported through the system and assess the impact of past contaminant input on the cave environment. Concentrations of selected contaminants were determined using water samples, sediment cores, and surface sediment samples collected in the cave. Water samples were tested for one or all of chromium (Cr(VI) and Cr(III)), aluminum, nickel and lead, with pH, water temperature, total dissolved solids and conductivity measured in situ. Sediment cores were analyzed using an Itrax core scanner to obtain elemental concentrations, radiography, and magnetic susceptibility data. Identification of distinct horizons of metal concentrations in sediment cores allows for sedimentation event correlation within the cave system. Microfossils, including thecamoebians (testate amoebae), found within the sediment aid in delineation of sediment sources and transport pathways, sedimentation rates, and can be used to assess the past health of the cave. Integrating various sources of sedimentological data enhances the understanding of modern sedimentation processes, the depositional history of sediments within the cave system, and their record of paleoenvironmental change. Understanding these processes within this unique cave system will contribute toward establishing improved water management policies for this and similar cave systems found elsewhere.