GEOSCIENCE OUTREACH IN THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF CAVES AND KARST
Of the 202 International Year events to date, 84 (42%) have focused on geoscience topics with audiences ranging from children to professionals. Partners include 23 national and international geoscience organizations and 22 UNESCO Global Geoparks and World Heritage sites. As geologic features, much of the outreach, directly or indirectly, provides geoscience education. The COVID-19 pandemic has actually helped the outreach by forcing the production of virtual activities watched worldwide over many months. Conservative estimates, boosted especially through news media outlets, exceed more than 20 million contacts.
The theme of the International Year is “Explore, Understand, Protect.” The goal is that greater understanding will lead to greater funding to support additional research and more effective regulations and guidelines to minimize adverse impacts on karst, and of karst on people. Due to the pandemic, the International Year is extended through 2022, but the benefits and expanded frontiers of the cave and karst geosciences are expected to grow for decades.