International karst conference begins at WKU

Amira Ahmetovic

The opening ceremony of the 2011 International Conference on Karst Hydrogeology and Ecosystems was held at WKU’s Snell Hall Wednesday morning.

Hosted by the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, the National Cave and Karst Research Institute and the International Association of Hydrogeologists, the conference is being attended by scientists from 16 countries.

The opening ceremony included a brief speech from Gordon Baylis, vice president for research, and Pat Reed, superintendent of Mammoth Cave National Park.

Baylis shared what he thinks the conference exemplifies — student involvement in research, the pursuit of grant money and being an interesting showcase for research.

“Karst exemplifies what WKU is up to,” he said. 

Baylis added that studying karst makes WKU locally relevant due to landscape that includes caves and sinkholes, but with an international reach. The scientists in attendance from other countries, including China, Brazil, Switzerland, and The Netherlands, also study karst in their part of the world, which allows scientists to connect with one another and share research and ideas.

The group is expected to take a series of field trips at Mammoth Cave National Park and surrounding area Thursday.

During the opening ceremony, Reed briefly spoke about the partnership between Mammoth Cave and WKU.

Reed said because Mammoth Cave is one of the largest and longest caves in the world, WKU’s educational research has helped make it one of the best understood caves in the world.

“Through science we’ll be able to meet the mandate with the national park,” he said.

The conference is scheduled to continue through Friday.

Jason Polk, associate director of the Hoffman Institute and assistant professor of geosciences, said the conference is unique because the participants in attendance are from a variety of different countries, linking WKU to the international community.

Not only are students engaged, scholarship is also promoted and it’s a great opportunity to highlight the area of Bowling Green, Polk added.

“It’s a unique opportunity for WKU to host these international guests,” he said.  “We don’t always have international scientists in the same room to share ideas and communicate. It’s an opportunity for them to get on the same page with issues and causes to the environment.”