WKU Crawford Laboratory of Hydrology and University of Belgrade participate in international scientists exchange

In June of this year, the director of the Crawford Hydrology Laboratory (CHL), Autumn Singer, traveled to the Balkans in Eastern Europe to complete a cultural and scientific exchange funded by the Trust for Mutual Understanding (TMU), an organization that awards grants to encourage and support interactions between American and European scientists Eastern. The Assistant Director of CHL, Lee Anne Bledsoe, and Dr. Nenad Marić from the Department of Environmental Engineering at the University of Belgrade and the Cave Research Foundation were awarded TMU funding for their proposal for an “Exchange of Researchers in Groundwater Studies” in 2019. Part of the exchange took place in the same year with the travel of Dr. Maric is to Kentucky for training in cave surveying and mapping, fluorescent dye-tracing techniques, and hydrological monitoring methods used in urban and rural karst environments in south central Kentucky. Singer was scheduled to complete the exchange in the summer of 2020 with plans to travel to the Balkans and attend the International Hydrogeology course and field seminar held in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina or a groundwater training/research event in coordination with Dr. Mari to focus on pollutant transport and remediation in karst regions . Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed those plans.

Fast forward to June 2022 when Singer traveled to Belgrade, Serbia to meet Dr. Maric and colleagues at the Karst Hydrogeology (CKH) Center at the University of Belgrade. There, she submitted “Fluorescence Tracing: Applied Methods in Hydrogeology” to the Faculty of Geology and Mining, Department of Hydrogeology at the University of Belgrade. Attendees received information about techniques for tracking fluorescent dye using activated charcoal media for passive monitoring in karst systems and were given several examples of case studies illustrating these and other new technologies that CHL is using to monitor groundwater, such as environmental DNA (eDNA) tracing and microbial source tracing (MST).

During her visit, Singer also discovered Belgrade’s rich and turbulent history, which dates back to prehistoric times. Multiple conquests from neighboring provinces sought to capture and defend the strategic fortress of the city at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers. Serbian-American contacts and contributions are abundant as well. A notable example is Jovan شفيižić, the Serbian geographer who is credited with being the first to describe molten rock, caves, associated springs, and other common features of the Dinaric region as “karst,” a word quite familiar to those living in the Central South. Kentucky, where it has its own karst. Another well-known figure is the Serbian engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla, known for many contributions including designing alternating current electric current systems. A visit to the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade revealed details of Tesla’s life and time in America, his major accomplishments, and displays of several career engines and Tesla coils. As the week ended, Singer and Dr. Maric joined a group of hydrogeologists from CKH on a tour of karst springs and ancient monasteries high in the hills of the eastern Serbian countryside to learn about the area’s historical and modern human use, with access to natural water sources a need that still connects Active monasteries in the surrounding rural communities. The team visited Krupaj Springs, a unique site where a large karst spring is located a few hundred feet from a large geothermal spring. Karst springs serve as a source of drinking water for the surrounding communities, and there is a cold-water trout farming facility below the dam.

The last stage of the exchange took place in Postojna, Slovenia where Singer attended and presented the results of the TMU exchange on 29The tenth International School of Carstology. Each year, the ZRC SAZU Karst Research Institute hosts this conference that features professional talks, poster presentations and field trips to karst landmarks in the heart of the popular Dinaric Karst region. There, Singer presented the poster “Promoting Scholarships in Karst Hydrogeology through Cultural Exchange” to spread awareness among other researchers of funding opportunities available to support scientific exchange between the United States and Eastern European countries. Her participation also included excursions to world famous Postojnska jama, UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, Škocjanske jame. Both caves are known for their remarkable spread of formations, and the presence of unique cave-adapted organisms, and are places of great cultural importance in preserving evidence of early prehistoric explorers.

This exchange resulted in several positive outcomes, including awarding a Fulbright Scholar Visiting Award to Dr. Maric for the proposal he developed with Dr. Jason Polk, Director of WKU’s Center for Geo-Environmental Studies, during the US-based segment. from the exchange. Results of a dye-tracing effort conducted with Dr. Maric in 2019 led to the hydrological association of a suitable Mammoth Cave with the Great Onyx Cave, the identification of critically endangered Kentucky cave shrimp at a new site at Mammoth Cave, and enhanced efforts for better characterization of marten. Large Onyx groundwater drainage basin. Together, these achievements have provided the basis for securing additional funding to support ongoing research in the vicinity of the great agate. The Balkan part of the exchange was equally fruitful, providing opportunities to experience the culture of Serbia and Slovenia while surrounded by a community of interdisciplinary scholars, working towards common goals in the cradle of karst geological environments. Interactions with Serbian karst hydrologists from CKH allowed Singer to introduce new dye-tracking sampling techniques that are commonly used in the United States but not widely used in Serbia. The opportunity to view and explore karst, which was formed under unique processes from south central Kentucky karst, and to note that both regions face similar challenges for the characterization and protection of groundwater highlighted the need for greater cooperation and communication between the different approaches to managing karst resources used among the international community. . With about 20% of the world dependent on karst groundwater as a source of drinking water, the importance of applying multifaceted approaches to groundwater study and management is growing in importance. Karst scholars must continue to learn from each other to achieve security for groundwater quality and availability. Understanding the successes and failures of karst groundwater management in a single geological environment is a valuable reference point that can be used to inform approaches that may be applicable in other settings.

An increased sense of people and place was the thread that tied these experiences together. Although the initial exchange ended, the interactions of CHL and the Serb colleagues were not over. CHL and CKH continue to exchange contact about tracer studies, and Singer plans to attend the International Course for Characterization and Engineering of Karst Aquifers in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina in the summer of 2023 to continue the relationship. The exchange was successful in part due to the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the Cave Research Foundation, Mammoth Cave National Park, Dr. Rickard Tommy III, Dr. Chris Groves, the National Speleological Society, the University of Belgrade’s College of Mining and Geology, the University at Belgrade Karst Hydrogeology Center, and the Department of Hydrogeology at the University of Belgrade.

For additional information or questions, please call Autumn Singer at (270) 745-9224.

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