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Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5035

A product of the Groundwater Resources Program
Prepared in cooperation with the National Cave and Karst Research Institute

U.S. Geological Survey Karst Interest Group Proceedings, Carlsbad, New Mexico, April 29–May 2, 2014

Edited by Eve L. Kuniansky and Lawrence E. Spangler

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (12 MB)Introduction and Acknowledgments

Karst aquifer systems are present throughout parts of the United States and some of its territories, and have developed in carbonate rocks (primarily limestone and dolomite) that span an interval of time encompassing more than 550 million years. The depositional environments, diagenetic processes, post-depositional tectonic events, and geochemical weathering processes that form karst aquifers are varied and complex, and involve biological, chemical, and physical changes. These factors, combined with the diverse climatic regimes under which karst development in these rocks has taken place, result in the unique dual- or triple-porosity nature of karst aquifers. These complex hydrogeologic systems typically represent challenging and unique conditions to scientists attempting to study groundwater flow and contaminant transport in these terrains.

The dissolution of carbonate rocks and the subsequent development of distinct and beautiful landscapes, caverns, and springs has resulted in the most exceptional karst areas of the United States being designated as national or state parks; commercial caverns and known privately owned caves number in the tens of thousands. Both public and private properties provide access for scientists to study the flow of groundwater in situ. Likewise, the range and complexity of landforms and groundwater flow systems associated with karst terrains are enormous, perhaps more than for any other aquifer type. Karst aquifers and landscapes that form in tropical areas, such as the cockpit karst along the north coast of Puerto Rico, differ greatly from karst landforms in more arid climates, such as the Edwards Plateau in west-central Texas or the Guadalupe Mountains near Carlsbad, New Mexico, where hypogenic processes have played a major role in speleogenesis. Many of these public and private lands also contain unique flora and fauna associated with these karst hydrogeologic systems. As a result, numerous federal, state, and local agencies have a strong interest in the study of karst terrains.

Many of the major springs and aquifers in the United States have developed in carbonate rocks, such as the Floridan aquifer system in Florida and parts of Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina; the Ozark Plateaus aquifer system in parts of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma; and the Edwards-Trinity aquifer system in west-central Texas. These aquifers, and the springs that discharge from them, serve as major water-supply sources and as unique ecological habitats. Competition for the water resources of karst aquifers is common, and urban development and the lack of attenuation of contaminants in karst areas can impact the ecosystem and water quality of these aquifers.

The concept for developing a platform for interaction among scientists within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) working on karst-related studies evolved from the November 1999 National Ground-Water Meeting of the USGS. As a result, the Karst Interest Group (KIG) was formed in 2000. The KIG is a loose-knit, grass-roots organization of USGS and non-USGS scientists and researchers devoted to fostering better communication among scientists working on, or interested in, karst science. The primary mission of the KIG is to encourage and support interdisciplinary collaboration and technology transfer among scientists working in karst areas. Additionally, the KIG encourages collaborative studies between the different mission areas of the USGS as well as other federal and state agencies, and with researchers from academia and institutes. The KIG also encourages younger scientists by participation of students in the poster and oral sessions.

To accomplish its mission, the KIG has organized a series of workshops that are held near nationally important karst areas. To date (2014) six KIG workshops, including the workshop documented in this report, have been held. The workshops typically include oral and poster sessions on selected karst-related topics and research, as well as field trips to local karst features. Proceedings of the workshops are published by the USGS and are available online at

The first KIG workshop was held in St. Petersburg, Florida, February 13–16, 2001, in the vicinity of the large springs and other karst features of the Floridan aquifer system. The second KIG workshop was held August 20–22, 2002, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in proximity to the carbonate aquifers of the northern Shenandoah Valley and highlighted an invited presentation on karst literature by the late Barry F. Beck of P.E. LaMoreaux and Associates. The third KIG workshop was held September 12–15, 2005, in Rapid City, South Dakota, nearby to karst features in evaporites and limestones of the Madison Group in the Black Hills of South Dakota, including Wind Cave National Park and Jewel Cave National Monument. The workshop also included a featured presentation by Thomas Casadevall, Central Region Director, USGS, on the status of earth science at the USGS and evening trips to Jewel Cave led by Mike Wiles, National Park Service (NPS) and Wind Cave led by Rod Horrocks, NPS. The fourth KIG workshop was held May 27–29, 2008, and hosted by the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute and Center for Cave and Karst Studies at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, near Mammoth Cave National Park and karst features of the Chester Upland and Pennyroyal Plateau. The workshop featured a late-night field trip into Mammoth Cave with Rickard Toomey and Rick Olsen, NPS. The fifth workshop was held April 26–29, 2011, and was a joint meeting of the USGS KIG and University of Arkansas HydroDays, hosted by the Department of Geosciences at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The workshop featured an outstanding field trip to the unique karst terrain along the Buffalo National River of the southern Ozarks and a keynote presentation on paleokarst in the United States by Art and Peggy Palmer.

This sixth and current 2014 KIG workshop is hosted by the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI) in Carlsbad, New Mexico, with Director of NCKRI, George Veni, serving as co-chair of the workshop with Eve Kuniansky, USGS. The session planning committee for this sixth workshop includes Van Brahana, USGS retired and University of Arkansas Professor Emeritus; Tom Byl, USGS and Tennessee State University; Zelda Bailey, former Director of NCKRI and retired Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder Laboratory, Colorado; Patrick Tucci, USGS retired; and Mike Bradley, Allan Clark, Geoff Delin, Daniel Doctor, James Kaufmann, Eve Kuniansky, Randy Orndorff, Larry Spangler, and Dave Weary of the USGS. The karst hydrology field trip on Thursday will be led by Lewis Land (NCKRI karst hydrologist) and the optional Friday field trip on the geology of Carlsbad Caverns National Park will be led by George Veni. The keynote speaker is Dr. Penelope Boston, Director of Cave and Karst Studies at New Mexico Tech, Socorro, and Academic Director at NCKRI, who will address the future of karst research. Additionally, there is a featured presentation “Irish karst and its management,” by Caoimhe Hickey, The Geological Survey of Ireland, preceding a panel discussion on “Collaboration During Times of Limited Resources.”

The extended abstracts of USGS authors were peer reviewed and approved for publication by the U.S. Geological Survey. Articles submitted by university researchers and other federal and state agencies did not go through the formal USGS peer review and approval process, and therefore may not adhere to our editorial standards or stratigraphic nomenclature and is not research conducted or data collected by the USGS. However, all articles had at a minimum of two peer reviews, and all articles were edited for consistency of appearance in the published Proceedings. The use of trade, firm or product names in any article is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. The USGS, Office of Groundwater, provides technical support for the Karst Interest Group website and public availability of the Proceedings from these workshops, and the USGS Groundwater Resources Program funds the publication costs. Finally, the cover illustration is the work of Ann Tihansky, USGS, used since the first KIG workshop in 2000.

Eve L. Kuniansky
USGS Karst Interest Group Coordinator

First posted April 29, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Eve L. Kuniansky
U.S. Geological Survey
1770 Corporate Drive, Suite 500
Norcross, GA 30093
678-924-6614 (fax)

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Suggested citation:

Kuniansky, E.L., and Spangler, L.E., 2014, U.S. Geological Survey Karst Interest Group Proceedings, Carlsbad, New Mexico, April 29–May 2, 2014: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5035, 155 p.,

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)

ISSN 2328-031X (print)













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