Cave & Karst Field Data Collection & Visualization

Unless otherwise noted, all courses are based out of Hamilton Valley Field Station, located on the border of Mammoth Cave National Park near Bowling Green, Kentucky. See Logistics page for more information.

June 5-11, 2022

Data collected from cave surveys are typically used to generate line plots and digitally rendered maps of caves  Resource inventory data are sometimes collected but often not digitally tied to survey/map data.  There is so much more that can be done with existing cave data, maps, and inventory and with some additionally collected data during cave survey and entrance field work.

This is a fast-paced course that will explore various methods to derive more understanding and visualization of cave and karst field data. Not only will we learn the standard uses of various cave data reduction programs, we will go deeper and learn advanced methods such producing 3-dimensional plots, georeferencing cave entrances, digital and paper cave maps, working with large cave/large data sets, showing inventory data on maps and working with point cloud data (from LIDAR and photogrammetry), Then, we will use current best software packages (including Excel, ArcGIS ONLINE and GoogleEarth) to push our understanding of the data even farther by georeferencing data and displaying it with additional information such as inventory, dye traces, topo quads and Geo topos.

Instruction will also cover efficient development and use of data management systems, cave inventories and databases, and 3-dimensional analysis and rendering of cave/karst data. The course format will include a combination of in-class instruction, field demonstrations, and field instruction in pertinent cave/karst data collection methods. Students should be prepared to spend 2-4 hours per day underground though no special skills are required. A general understanding of cave or field data collection techniques is helpful but not required. Students will be expected to have their own laptops but software used for this course will be provided for each student.

Instructor: Dr. Pat Kambesis


Dr. Pat Kambesis received her Master's degree from Western Kentucky University (WKU). Her thesis focused on the karst hydrogeology of caves and karst in the upper Midwest of the USA. She received her Ph.D. from Mississippi State University Department of Geoscience through research that focused on the study of coastal karst and caves in the Caribbean and northeastern Yucatan Peninsula and on developing methods for morphometric analysis of caves and karst features. She has extensive  national and international experience at documenting cave and karst and producing maps and other visualizations of that data. Her current research includes characterization of hypogene caves and karst in the Western US, the role of condensation corrosion in cave development, and in developing methods to better quantify and visualize cave and karst environments. She currently teaches at Western Kentucky University in the Department of Earth, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences.