The summer cave and karst courses are for those with an academic, professional, or personal interest in all aspects of caves and karst systems. An adventurous spirit and good physical conditioning will maximize enjoyment and benefits of most courses. Past participants have included undergraduate and graduate students, teachers, college professors, cave guides and interpretive staff, cave and karst managers, geologists, hydrologists, environmental consultants, and cavers. Individuals desiring an exciting and educational vacation experience can also benefit from participating in a course. Some courses do require previous subject knowledge, but others are designed for individuals who are purely interested in caves, caving, and karst landscapes.
The courses offered through the program vary from year-to-year and sometimes in location, but all provide hands-on field experiences. Though many of the courses are held at Mammoth Cave National Park, other locations include the urban karst of Bowling Green, Kentucky; Edwards Aquifer in San Antonio, Texas; Missouri Ozarks; and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, California, and north- and central-Florida, among many others. Many of the courses even involve rigorous trips into rarely visited portions of Mammoth Cave. See the courses tab for more information on this year's course offerings and locations.
The typical course format consists of instructors lecturing in the mornings with cave and surface trips scheduled for the afternoons. Special talks, slide shows, and trips into area caves may also be scheduled after dinner. Most courses can be taken for academic credit (undergraduate and graduate), for continuing education credits (CEU), or as non-credit workshops.
In 1979, former associate professor at Western Kentucky University and Director of the Center for Cave and Karst Studies, Dr. Nicholas Crawford, developed a program of one-week long karst field studies courses offered through Western Kentucky University and Mammoth Cave National Park as the "Summer University in the Park" program. The first courses were offered on June 6, 1980 at the Great Onyx campground at Mammoth Cave. In 1987 the name of the program was officially changed to "Karst Field Studies."