By Val Hildreth-Werker & Jim C. Werker
This is the pilot for a series of online modules that explore current best practices in cave conservation and restoration. Expanding from the philosophies and techniques described in our peer-reviewed volume, Cave Conservation and Restoration (Hildreth-Werker and Werker, NSS 2006),each module teaches minimum-impact methods focused on specific tasks to mitigate anthropogenic impacts in caves. The pilot includes a short introduction to the possibilities for cave restoration, followed by an overview of important concepts in speleothem repair. Damaged speleothems can often be recovered or restored with cave-safe, minimum-impact materials, techniques, and protocols. We teach science-based speleothem repair methods to avoid contaminating cave habitats and provide long-term solutions that facilitate self-repair of active formations over time. In developing cave restoration and speleothem repair techniques, we are always guided by the principle: First do no harm—Primum non nocere.
Val Hildreth-Werker and Jim C. Werker have been working to improve cave conservation protocols and restoration techniques for over 30 years. They bring research and development backgrounds to cave and karst conservation—Jim, with 34 years at Sandia National Labs as a mechanical engineer in tooling design, fabrication, pressure safety, and materials research and Val, as a commercial medical/surgical photographer for Texas Tech University School of Medicine with 35 years as an outdoor education advisor.
Jim and Val conduct cave conservation workshops internationally for government agencies, institutions, and non-governmental organizations. They develop minimum-impact methods in cave inventory, restoration, speleothem repair, and caving ethics; design environmental photomonitoring systems for surface and subsurface environments; and provide field support to a variety of scientific cave research projects. The couple has served the National Speleological Society (NSS) as Conservation Division Chiefs since 1999 with more than 100 published papers. Val and Jim coordinated and edited Cave Conservation and Restoration, a comprehensive, award-winning volume describing field-proven techniques in state-of-the-art cave conservation, restoration, speleothem repair, and low-impact caving ethics, published by the NSS in 2006. Both are Fellows of the NSS, received Certificates of Merit for their work on the book, and were recognized individually as recipients of the Victor Schmidt Conservation Award. Members of the Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association, Inc. granted the inaugural award for Outstanding Contribution to Cave and Karst Management to Val and Jim for their editorship of and contributions to Cave Conservation and Restoration, with “congratulations to the NSS on the breadth and excellence of this volume.”