Penelope Boston

The Global Cave Wilderness: Our Underground World Heritage

Dr. Penelope Boston, New Mexico Tech

The international community of cave explorers, scientists, and conservationists are working diligently to protect and understand the amazing hidden wildland treasures that are out of site underneath our feet. These amazing environments can be fragile, and are often the unintentional targets of pollution and other impacts of civilization. Unique species of animals and microorganisms inhabit these realms and can tell us much about past climates and other conditions above ground by acting as time capsules of such data. In addition, many caves are formed in carbonate rocks, and are intimately associated with carbonate aquifers. These are the sources of drinking water for about 25-30% of the world’s population. They require special management practices that differ from those suitable for ordinary sandstone aquifers. A final connection of caves to the welfare of our species is seen in the potential of cave containing landscapes to produce sinkholes, a type of geohazard that must be taken into account as we decide where to site the structures that we build. Dr. Boston will provide a world tour of spectacular examples of the underground wilderness and discuss the actions being taken to preserve them for our future, and the practical aspects of good international management practices for these global resources.