|Friday, May 20, 2011|
On May 14, caves, karst, and bats were the stars of the day! About 350 people attended the opening celebration of the new National Cave and Karst Research Institute headquarters building in Carlsbad, New Mexico. This public event marked an important milestone in the development of the Institute. The building was constructed as a model for low environmental impact, with features such as low-emissions materials, devices for water harvesting, being solar energy ready, and maximizing natural light, and is more than office and meeting rooms. Once its full complement of furniture and equipment is installed, it will also house a museum and interpretive exhibit, classroom, laboratory, and library.
After the U.S. Congress created NCKRI in 1998 with the function of advancing all aspects of cave and karst science, education, and management, it operated under the National Park Service. For greater flexibility in achieving its mandates, NCKRI has become an independent non-profit organization that grew via a partnership involving the federal government, through the NPS, the State of New Mexico, the City of Carlsbad, and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. In the days following the event, there were meetings for the executive board, which has NPS employees and retirees as active participants.
On opening day, NCKRI delved directly into its mission of teaching and swung its doors open wide. Visitors were encouraged to tour the facility, which contains a one-of-a-kind built in bat roost, and to participate in numerous activities designed for children but enjoyed by all, such as an inflatable cave provided by the Bureau of Land Management’s local field office, “Nature’s Plumbing”, “Dress like a Caver”, and “Make a Bat Magnet”. Poster displays with detailed information about significant cave research and discoveries lined the halls. In the afternoon, a distinguished lecture series included talks with titles “Introduction to Caves and Karst”, “Bats: Masters of the Night Sky” (with an opportunity to meet live bats!), “It’s Not Easy Being Karst”, and “The Planet Under Our Feet: From Giant Crystals to Rock-eating Microbes”. NCKRI plans to carry on the lecture series in the fall.
“The strong support of the local community, citizens, and organizations is heartening,” said NCKRI’s Executive Director Dr. George Veni. “We will continue teaching people about the benefits of living in a karst area (in addition to what “karst” means) and help overcome some of the challenges.”
Existing as we do on the land, people easily don’t know about, forget, or take for granted the vast resources, research opportunities, thriving ecosystems, and beauties underground. NCKRI, with its ability to connect government, educational institutions, and private organizations, will help all understand and appreciate the awesome world beneath us.
To learn more, visit www.nckri.org or follow NCKRI on Facebook.