BCRA online seminar: Cave Forensics: Visitation and Past Climate

Online meeting
Workshop report
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As a contribution to the International Year of Caves and Karst (IYCK), The British Cave Research Association (BCRA) is hosting a series of online seminars that emphasise the scientific importance of caves and karst, and which describe ways in which BCRA supports cave research. The seminars will be held on the second Monday of each month in 2021, 19:30–21:00 UK time/ 18:30 - 20:00 UTC, commencing in February. These talks will use the Zoom platform.

Today's seminar: Cave Forensics: Reconstructing Cave Visitation and--Past--Climate

Time: 19:30 BST / 18:30 UTC.

WithLisa Baldini, Lecturer in Environmental Science, Teesside University

One of the most captivating qualities of caves are the intricate natural mineral sculptures that adorn their interiors. These speleothems grow incrementally over thousands of years, one drop of water at a time. Layers roughly as thick as a fingernail harden over the span of a year and within them is captured a snapshot of the climate (temperature and precipitation) and vegetation at the surface as well as activity within the cave. Modern cavers might grasp the top of a stalagmite to hoist themselves up a chimney or to maintain three points of contact when scrambling over uneven ground. Depending on conditions and cave traffic, the residue from their touch may be preserved for the ages. If a stalagmite snaps as a result, so too will it lay in broken repose for millennia. In the past, cave visitors and inhabitants used torches to light their way. Evidence of more recent torch smoke can sometimes be seen as a black residue that blankets the surface of speleothems. Within the speleothem layers, however, earlier visits over thousands of years may be preserved. This talk will explore how cave scientists use the physical characteristics and geochemistry of stalagmites to reconstruct past climate and cave visitation. Understanding human-climate interactions in the past provides important perspectives for addressing current challenges.

How to join:

Please visit the website and refer to the section on 'How to join the next meeting'.

Points to note:

  • There will be a different URL for each of the seminars. The URL will be published here a few weeks before each meeting. See the above section How to Join the next Meeting.
  • These seminars will not be recorded. You can only watch them live, via Zoom. The reasons for not recording them are that a) it can be too time-consuming and too difficult to obtain all the necessary copyright clearances; and b) some content may be subject to embargoes or other academic constraints. If you are interested in obtaining the content of a particular talk you should contact the speaker privately.

Upcoming seminars

Monday 11 October: Caves — Celebrating the International Year of Caves--and--Karst
Time: 19:30 BST / 18:30 UTC 

With: Andy Eavis, Gina Moseley, John Gunn, Brendan Sloan

These four short lectures, first presented to a live audience at the the Royal Geographical Society in mid-September, highlight the three IYCK themes: Explore, Understand and Protect. Andy Eavis will introduce and present a brief update on the latest cave discoveries in the British Isles and worldwide. Gina Moseley will give an overview of some underground science projects. John Gunn will highlight the role of cavers in protecting and monitoring underground sites in British Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Brendan Sloan will present an overview of the outstanding, but little publicised work undertaken by the Cave Rescue Organisations.

Monday 8 November:  The British Caving Library
Time: 19:30 GMT

With: Jenny Potts, BCRA Library Coordinator
abstract not yet available

Previous seminars:

  1. Pleistocene fossils from Westbury Cave (8 February 2021)
  2. Hydrology of the Castleton area (8 March 2021)
  3. The Chalk: Britain's Most Important Karst Region (12 April 2021)
  4. Cave History: Ancient and Recent (10 May 2021)
  5. English Cave SSSI — Extent and Monitoring (14 June 2021)
  6. British Cave Science Centre (19 July 2021)
  7. The Chronology of Caves (9 Aug 2021)

For more information:

Please consult the website for more information: