The National Cave and Karst Research Institute
The name of our Institute is long and can be a bit challenging to recall. But within the name of the Institute lies our story and illustrates what we do and why we do it.
NCKRI was created by the US Congress as the country’s authority on caves and karst. Twenty-five percent of the United States is karst and related pseudokarst terrain, which occurs in all 50 states. NCKRI works across the country to study and better manage these resources, which includes much of the nation’s water supply, and to minimize problems from sinkhole collapse and other challenges.
Caves are vital to humanity in countless ways. They provide scientists with information on natural resources, geologic history, human history, and evolution. Research in caves shows they contain valuable data related to global climate change, groundwater supply and contamination, and biomedical investigations. Caves also contain information pertinent to different scientific topics, including anthropology, archaeology, geology, paleontology and mineralogy.
Nearly 40% of the eastern United States is karst. It occurs throughout the country. Almost 25% of America’s groundwater comes from karst regions, yet most Americans have never heard of karst. Karst is a type of landscape that benefits millions of Americans, while also threatening millions when mismanaged. NCKRI works to maximize those benefits and develop the best possible management practices for karst areas.
Investigating the mysteries of the underground is NCKRI’s specialty. At the Institute, researchers conduct a variety of biological and geological studies. Our biologists examine cave microbes, discovering new organisms and revealing the effects of microbial activity on geologic processes. Our geologists investigate cave origins, karst hydrology, and sinkholes. Geological findings are improving strategies for solving complex environmental issues. NCKRI’s flexibility allows for the expansion of our research program across cave and karst disciplines as opportunities arise.
Cave and karst systems intimately connect to many of our communities. Without proper management, humans can severely harm caves and karst, to the detriment of those communities. Recognizing the importance of cave and karst research, education, and conservation needs, the US Congress created the Institute in 1998 in partnership with the State of New Mexico and the City of Carlsbad. We are a part of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, which administers our federal and state funding. NCKRI Headquarters is located in the John Heaton Building at the Cascades of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The building is constructed utilizing environmentally friendly products and is an example of how to live softly on karst.