In 1884, a DePauw student named John Reasoner was asked to check out a cave system by the U.S. Geologic Survey. He recruited another sophomore and one of his professors to accompany him into the cave that was rumored to run under Blackstock stadium beneath the DePauw University campus.
Reasoner's party didn't find much other than the names of some DePauw students written on the wall. Since that time, much lore has risen around the cave that is know as Sellars or University Cave.
In 1962, a cave explorer by the name of Tom Rea explored Sellers cave, charted a map and description of the area. There is also a report by the IU Caving Club providing information on the cave site being checked out in the fall of 2000.
This report reads: "The situation has much changed. The karst is more extensive. A sink has developed around the pits. The property is posted strongly. The area is now completely developed with homes."
Sellars Cave is recognized in spelunking circles as being the only known cave in Mississippian Age limestone north of the Wisconsin glacial boundary. The term karst is applied to areas such as this one. In fact, much of Putnam County is considered a karst region.
Such regions are characterized by the presence of limestone or other soluble rocks, where drainage has been largely diverted into subsurface routes. The topography of such areas is dominated by sinkholes, sinking streams, large springs and caves.
Indiana's unique karst features are in danger, say members of the Indiana Karst Conservancy (IKC).
"Indiscriminate use of sinkholes and pits to dump trash and toxic materials pollutes the groundwater. Some of Indiana's most beautiful caves suffer from the vandalism and littering of thoughtless visitors. Critical habitats for endangered animal species such as the Indiana Bat often have little or no protection," says a report on the IKC Web site.
Many karst features are subject to incompatible or damaging uses. Most are on private land. Protection and awareness of karst features and the unique habitat they provide is what the Indiana Karst Conservancy (IKC) is about.
The amount of land being misused is usually small and could have been protected at a minimal cost. This can make it possible to acquire or lease properties, and to manage the karst resource for proper use by the informed public. What may be a liability and nuisance for landowners can present real opportunities for the IKC.
Properties managed by the IKC are open to all responsible individuals or groups, except where scientific research or other special protection considerations (such as hibernating endangered bats) require limited visitation. Certain restrictions may be implemented when it is necessary to effectively protect sensitive resources. Other logical conservation practices such as prohibiting biological and geological collecting (except for approved scientific projects) are enforced.
The IKC provides Cave Education and Outreach to foster the protection of Indiana's unique karst resources through active conservation education. They provide presentations to schools, agencies, museums, businesses, and more. Presentations can be tailor-made for the particular needs of the group.
One of the programs we use, Project Underground, is particularly intended to educate those in grade levels K-12 but can be used anywhere. Project Underground is used to create and build awareness of and responsible attitudes towards cave and karst resources and their management needs among the general public through educational and interpretive programs. It is set up much the same as other "project" programs and offers activities in cave geology, creatures, and appropriate use and management.
For example, Cave Creations provides background on adaptations cave creatures have to cave environments and gives participants a way to use their knowledge to develop their own critter. The activity can be modified for example, they often turn it into a 1.5-hour workshop, including a showing of the "Caves: Life Beneath the Forest" cave life documentary, which was filmed entirely in south-central Indiana.
They then treat the participants to a tour of our 37.5-foot inflatable cave, where they can take their critters, show us where they believe they should live, and explain why they designed them the way they did. The workshop encourages creative outlets as well as public speaking skills.
The various Project Underground activities can be made to fit state standards. Continuing Renewal Units (CRUs) are available for educators who attend Project Underground workshops.
There is no charge for these services, but donations are welcome. For more information, contact Education and Outreach Committee Chairman, Kriste Lindberg, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (812) 339-7210.
For more information on Karst visit the IKC Web site at www.caves.org