2010 Grant Recipients

Matt Batina ($1,000)
Ph. D. Student
Department of Geography and Geology
Southern Mississippi University

Comparative, High-Resolution Pollen Analysis of a Stratigraphic Bat Guano Deposit and
Proximate Lake Record to Evaluate Guano's Potential as a Paleoenvironmental Archive

Abstract - To date, pollen studies of bat guano deposits have focused on the most modern guano samples only, and it is unknown if these deposits contain a stratigraphic pollen signal representative of the local environment that can be used to produce reliable paleoenvironmental reconstructions. Our understanding of guano pollen records is hampered by the limited number of studies examining similarities and differences between pollen records from cave guano and the surrounding region. For this research I propose to conduct such a study using high-resolution pollen analysis to produce and compare detailed pollen records from a guano pile at Round Spring Cavern, Missouri and two lake sediment cores from the nearby Sunklands Conservation Area. These lake sites are within the foraging range of several species of bats that could have inhabited the cave (Sutton and House, 2006). As such, they will provide a better comparison than all previous pollen studies I have researched and help to determine how accurately the guano pollen records vegetation change over time. Moreover, because bats have likely influenced the pollen assemblage of their guano to some degree (Carrión et al., 2006), this study may yield information about past bat behavior and foraging strategies. Altogether, this research is expected to contribute baseline information on the relationships between fossil pollen, vegetation, and the bats and their guano to further pollen in guano deposits as a viable proxy for paleoecological study.

Greg Brick ($1,000)
Ph. D. Student
Department of Geology
University of Minnesota

Geochemical and Isotopic Study of Natural Nitrate Deposits from Upper Mississippi Valley Caves

Abstract- Natural nitrate deposits are a poorly investigated part of the nitrogen cycle. It is proposed to examine the distribution and formation mechanism of natural nitrate deposits recently discovered in caves and crevices of the Upper Mississippi Valley, comparing them with known saltpeter caves of the southeastern United States and elsewhere. The methods used involve geochemical analysis and the stable isotopes of nitrogen and oxygen, bridging the fields of karst studies, geochemistry, and biology.

Ben Miller ($2,500)
M.S. Student
Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, Geosciences
Western Kentucky University

Examining the Hydrology of Carroll Cave and Toronto Springs, Missouri Through Groundwater Tracing and Geochemistry

Abstract - In a karst area, the relationship between activities occurring on the surface and the overall health of the subsurface environment are highly interconnected. However, the complex nature of karst flow systems can often make identification of these connections difficult. Carroll Cave, a large stream cave system located in the central Missouri Ozarks, is known for its biological and speleological significance. A project to delineate a recharge area for Carroll Cave, through groundwater tracing, was initiated in Fall of 2008. As a result of this work a preliminaryrecharge area of roughly 15 km² has been delineated. The water from Thunder River, within Carroll Cave, was positively traced to eight springs at a distributary spring system known as Toronto Springs. However, at least five other spring outlets at Toronto Springs appear to have independent sources not associated with Carroll Cave. Through examination of the geochemical properties of the individual springs, differences in water chemistry between the various outlets has become evident. Additional work with YSI Sonde dataloggers and water analysis seek to further define the variations in water chemistry, using carbonate chemistry parameters as additional “probes” to identify flow geometry. Sources thought to contribute water to the spring system include Carroll Cave, local surface streams, and other losing streams in the vicinity. By using dye tracing and creating geochemical fingerprints for the individual springs, the source waters and pathways for the springs at Toronto Springs are being identified.

Donald Slater ($2,500)
Ph.D. Student
Department of Anthropology
Brandeis University

Investigations of the Central Yucatan Archaeological Cave Project:
Caves, Power, and Legitimation in the Ancient Yaxcaba Region, Yucatan, Mexico

Abstract - The Central Yucatan Archaeological Cave Project (CYAC) will conduct cave explorations in the Yaxcaba Municipal region of Yucatan, Mexico with the goal of developing a better understanding of caves' role in socio-political and religious power struggles, and as stages of authoritarian legitimization, among the ancient Maya. Although gaining recognition as a critical component of archaeological projects in the region, Maya cave research is still in its formative years. Many parts of the Maya world, including the permit area of CYAC, have undergone no previous cave exploration. CYAC seeks to fill this spatial and intellectual gap by contributing to archaeology in the Maya area, and more broadly to anthropological theory. A dissertation feasibility study that I conducted in the Yaxcaba region during the summer of 2009 revealed abundant cave features which were utilized by the ancient Maya. As a result, I will assemble and lead two teams to carry out extensive research during the summer of 2010. With the aid of satellite imagery and local guides, the first team will search the jungle for previously undocumented caves and record related archaeological and spatial data for each feature. A second team will conduct preliminary excavations in select caves first located in 2010 which demonstrate strong potential to address CYAC's research questions. Both teams will produce detailed 2D and 3D maps of caves using a variety of techniques. This work will serve as the springboard for a lengthier and more intensive field season in 2011.

Benjamin W. Tobin ($2,500)
Ph.D. Student
Aquatic Resources Program, Department of Biology
Texas State University

Contributions of Karst Groundwater to Water Quality and Quantity of a Mountain River Basin under Varying Climatic Conditions:
The Kaweah River, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, California

Abstract - Under current climate conditions, hydrology of Sierra Nevadan rivers is primarily driven by three mechanisms: rainfall-runoff, snow accumulation and seasonal melting, and groundwater recharge, storage, and subsequent discharge. Snowmelt and groundwater both provide means of distributing seasonal precipitation events throughout the dry season. Snowmelt hydrology has been extensively studied, and its role documented in biogeochemical processes and maintaining river discharge. However, the extent to which groundwater contributes to these systems has yet to be quantified. As climate changes groundwater will potentially increase in its importance to maintaining essential ecological functions of these river systems. This project will quantify the current and historic contribution of karst groundwater within the Kaweah River in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and will model potential future responses of the karst aquifers to existing models predicting temperature and precipitation variation.