Going into the depths of the earth where it’s dark and wet might not seem fun for most people, but for the Ohio University Geology Department, it’s just another normal weekend. Three weekends ago, I had the opportunity to travel to West Virginia with “cavers” who do this kind of thing for research.
Kelli Baxstrom and Andrew Hall, first-year graduate students, and I stayed at the West Virginia Association for Cave Studies Fieldhouse and trekked down to a cave about a mile away. Baxtrom's research consists of collecting and examining the chemical properties of stalagmites that are more than 12,000 years old, and dating them back to wildfires in the area to see how the formations of the caves were affected by the fires. Hall's research consists of measuring the length and depth of scallops and formations in the cave walls to determine how fast the water that formed the cave moved through.
Inside Rapps Cave in Frankford, West Virginia, the students collect data for their research. Many graduate geology students are under the supervision of Geology Department Chair Greg Springer and come to the West Virginia Association for Cave Studies Fieldhouse to collect samples for research.
“This place is strictly for geology. Some of the longest caves all over the world are located here in Frankford, West Virginia, and the surrounding area,” Hall said. “Greg has mapped many of these caves and knows them like the back of his hand.”