Colloquium presenters speak to natural spaces

Two presenters spoke about natural spaces as part of the 2012 Spring Colloquium. On Tuesday, Aldemaro Romero, dean of the SIUE College of Arts and Sciences, and David Israelitt, a student at SIUE, spoke to a small crowd about two distinctly different types of natural spaces. The session was simply entitled Natural spaces.

Romero, who has extensive knowledge of caves, spoke about the the various ways that caves are connected to other spaces in his presentation called “Caves as Biological Spaces”.

“The first thing I want to impress on your understanding of caves is that caves are not closed systems. You think in a cave you are totally isolated from the world, but that’s not true from a biological viewpoint. You have a number of connections with caves,” said Romero. “These spaces are really interconnected with many other spaces outside the particular space.”

Romero’s presentation was based on a chapter of a book he published earlier about caves and cave biology, Cave Biology: A Life in Darkness, published by Cambridge University Press in 2009. Romero focused mainly on the formation of caves, the various types of caves, and the variety of life forms that exist in and out of the caves.

“The diversity of caves is immense. I have been in hundreds of caves around the world and I can say that no two are identical. There is great diversity of caves and because of that there is great diversity of microorganisms,” said Romero.

Romero also explained that what many Americans understand about caves is limited because of the diversity of life in the caves in the US is limited by the temperatures. He stated that in his research, he shows that the closer a cave is to the equator, the more diversity of life can be found.

“When you walk in there [caves in the US] you will see a lot of things, maybe a rat or two, maybe a bat, maybe a dog or something like that. When you do that in a tropical country, it looks more like an Indiana Jones movie. To begin with, the ceiling is totally covered by bats. And when I say covered, you cannot see the ceiling. It is all of these bats, who are dropping guano,” said Romero. “Because of all that huge amount of organic material, the ground is covered by invertebrates. And when I say covered, I mean when you walk you crunch, crunch.”

Romero suggested that an audience member who asked how to find caves with biodiversity in the US talk to local spelunkers. He said many times, caves are exploited for tourism. When people enter the caves, and lights are put in to give tourists a chance to see the inside, the caves are changed. 

The second presenter, David Israelitt, spoke to the audience about a study that he conducted with Elizabeth Walton, assistant professor of geography. His presentation was on the poster created about his research. The title of his poster was “A Spatial Analysis of the Vegetation at the Watershed Nature Center, Edwardsville, Illinois.”

Israelitt stated that he was able to conduct the research in Walton’s class, environmental science 573, a GIS class with real world applications. He said he was able to work at the watershed because of a memorandum of agreement between SIUE and the Watershed Nature Center.

“The Watershed was founded to preserve and restore the local ecosystems. These are primarily the wetlands, prairies, and forests that were in Illinois before Edwardsville was built up into a city,” said Israelitt “The Watershed Nature Center is a city park of Edwardsville. It’s managed by the Nature Preserve Foundation but most of the maintenance and efforts are coming from the community so it’s a very community oriented area.”

Israelitt showed slides of how the nature center has been used over the years, including a time period where the area was used as a sewage treatment area. He said the watershed was founded in 1991 and 1994 and the community and the Illinois Department of Conservation came together to make it a reality.

Israelitt explained how he used various tools available to scholars based on logger tools to find out how many trees are in the Watershed Nature Center. He said that as the vegetation survey group, what they wanted to do was provide a general characterization of the forest vegetation and then identify areas of concern and interest.

Filed Under: Biological SciencesGeneral CAS StoriesGeography

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