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Caves & Karst - Educational Resources

What are Caves? What is Karst?

Karst terrain is formed by dissolution of soluble bedrock like limestone, dolostone, marble, gypsum, and halite. In karst, spaces or conduits form in the subsurface that allow for rapid movement of groundwater. Water moves quickly from the earth’s surface underground in these places. Naturally formed underground spaces that people can enter are called caves. Sinkholes, disappearing streams, and caves are all common features of karst. Psuedokarst refers to areas with features like lava tubes, where caves and conduits have formed, though not through the process of dissolution.

CavesLIVE: Bringing Caves and Karst to Light

CavesLIVE Illustrated LogoCavesLIVE is a Distance Learning Adventure created to raise awareness and understanding of caves and karst. Through this experience you will learn about specially adapted animals, fossils, unique cave rock formations (speleothems), and twisting tunnels that lie just below our feet in many areas around the world and even on other planets! Caves provide just one connection between our everyday lives and these rich underground ecosystems. Join scientists and CavesLIVE for an exploration of the world beneath our feet and find out how we are connected to these amazing underground resources.

Join us and CavesLIVE for an exploration of the world beneath our feet, and find out how we are connected to these amazing underground resources.

Check out the CavesLIVE website to:

  • Find lesson plans about caves, karst and groundwater.
  • Learn about how caves and karst are inextricably connected to the surface.
  • Learn about how nutrient and energy sources reach into the subsurface, sustaining thriving communities of biota of all sizes.
  • Learn about how people have used caves to sustain life, for their cultural and spiritual practices, and for science education and fun.
  • Understand the role of citizens, public land management agencies, and non-governmental organizations in managing, protecting, and conserving natural resources.

The goal of CavesLIVE is to raise awareness and understanding of caves and karst - a resource that is seldom seen and considered mysterious - and connect it to people's everyday lives.

Natural Inquirer Caves and Karst Edition

Natural Inquirer icon with a bee holding a magnifying glass.

The Caves and Karst edition of the Forest Service’s Natural Inquirer journal, designed to present scientific research to elementary, middle and high school audiences, examines research on a variety of different topics including white-nose syndrome in bats, karst forest areas, an indigenous Alaskan tribe’s use of caves, and the geologic differences between two different caves. So much cool research!  Visit:

Junior Cave Scientist Program

Illustrated cover of the Junior Cave Scientist Booklet showing two young people in a cave with bats flying overheadThe Junior Cave Scientist activity book is a fun and fact-filled booklet with learning activities about caves and karst resources. This booklet discusses the key scientific disciplines that study cave resources, karst landscapes, and White-Nose Syndrome in bats, which is a deadly disease that has killed millions of hibernating bats in the United States.

EXPLORE magnificent and beautiful caves. You will find an amazing underground world just beneath your feet!

LEARN about caves and karst systems and the work that cave scientists do.

PROTECT AND CONSERVE our national parks, forests, and the things that make caves and karst areas special.

Download the Junior Cave Scientist Activity Booklet:
NOTE: This is a publication of the National Park Service in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service. It contains copyrighted material and is made available exclusively in this format for non-commercial educational purposes. The publication cannot be reformatted or sold.

Junior Cave Scientist Activity Booklet—English
PDF 9.5 MB, Accessible (508c), 2021

Guardabosques Juvenil de Cuevas—Spanish
PDF 7.0 MB, Accessible (508c), 2021