What is Speleology?


What is Speleology? Look in the dictionary and you will probably find the definition: the scientific study of caves [syn: speleology .
That's a bare bones answer, but really doesn't give one the scope that studying caves encompasses. Speleology uses many of the sciences such as chemistry, physics  archaeology, biology, geography, geology, meteorology, hydrology, cartography and paleontology.

Here is how some of those sciences relate to caves.

Well before the white man came to Wisconsin, Native Americans used caves for shelters and ritual activities. Many sandstone caves in Wisconsin have been documented with rock art and         Horace Carter Hovey (1833-
 petroglyphs dating back as far as 700 A.D. What do they mean,     1914) the father of
if anything? Archaeology can uncover some of those secrets.        American Speleology.
                                                                                                                                            

                                                                                            

One of the most typical misunderstandings about caves is that they are lifeless. This is far from the truth. Where is the biology in caves? While caves are dark and not inviting for most humans, all sorts of tiny terrestrial organisms are found in caves, and rarely are these seen by cavers. There are little mites (commonly orabatid and troglobitic rhagidiid mites), troglobitic and troglophilic springtails are nearly always present, and a suite of fly taxa in the families Phoridae, Heleomyzidae, Sciaridae, and Mycetophilidae comprise common terrestrial inhabitants of Midwestern caves. These little guys are the basis for the entire food web in many caves.

Geography which includes GIS has most frequently been employed in archaeological studies. Field mapping or survey along with GIS (Geographical Information System) can provide an easily manipulated database, a method for visual display of data, and a tool for the analysis of spatially referenced data.

Karst is a terrain described by Geologists as mostly comprised from limestone or dolomite and often where caves are located. This pourous bedrock can act as conduits where pollutants can quickly enter the groundwater and caves. Understanding karst and the underground aquifers are a common goal for both Geologists and 
Hydrologists.

Not only did Native Americans use caves for shelter, animals did too. Protected from the elements, fossils from caves offer important evidence of the vertebrate past. Some of the most significant deposits of                  
Pleistocene and recent vertebrate fossils are found in caves. However, fossils of all types and ages are frequently found in caves.


Alfred Bogli, shown here in the Holloch cave system
in 1980, was among the first speleologists to publish
   in the International Journal of speleology (Vol. 1, 1964) 
   with a paper on corrosion by mixing of different waters.


                                                       
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