What Lies Beneath: Exploring a Cave With UREC Outdoors and Geosciences Department

What Lies Beneath: Exploring a Cave With UREC Outdoors and Geosciences Department
Photo by Matt Covington

UREC Outdoors, in partnership with associate professor Matt Covington and the Cave Research Foundation, completed a caving trip on Saturday, March 9, at the Buffalo National River. The adventure combined cave exploration with a bioinventory cave-monitoring project. 

Covington, associate professor of geosciences, and UREC Outdoors offered the day-caving trip to students and UREC members.

The trip underground included eight undergraduate students, three faculty and staff, and one member from the Cave Research Foundation. 

"Caving access on the Buffalo River is a unique opportunity," says Mike Hoover, assistant director for UREC Outdoors. "Buffalo River caves have been closed for many years due to the white nose syndrome that is decimating bat populations in many U.S. caves. Cave access is highly restricted due to the spread of the fungus from cave to cave," Hoover adds. 


Above, a cave salamander, one of the species being counted during the trip underground. Below, a student edges along a wet chasm. Photos by Mike Hoover

Working with the Cave Research Foundation under a research permit, the group was able to access the cave.

To support the foundation's cave-monitoring effort during their monthly work weekend, the group completed a bioinventory while spending time underground. The process included counts of various species such as bats and salamanders. 

"This is an activity that I can't do on my own, that's unique and fun, and I think any opportunity to participate in something new adds to my overall university experience," shared Haley Felkins, mechanical engineering student.

"It also adds to my experience that I'm in geology courses, so I could see some of the features I learn about in class, in the field through this trip," noted Felkins.

Students, faculty and staff interested in UREC Outdoors are encouraged to visit the program website at urec.uark.edu. For information on how to get involved with caving in Arkansas, contact the Boston Mountain Grotto. The club is meeting at 7:30 tonight in Gearhart Hall, room 017. Cave Research Foundation information can be found here.

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