Mission

In 1986, the cave entrance and the 25-acre valley was donated to Western Kentucky University by WKU professor Dr. Raymond Cravens and WKU Physical Plant Administrator Owen Lawson. The donation served as the springboard for the restoration and preservation of Lost River Cave and the surrounding natural environment.
    Starting in the mid-1980’s, Western Kentucky University faculty and students contributed significantly to the conservation and preservation of this important historical site. They helped revitalize the valley, purchased monitoring equipment, began environmental instruction and worked to preserve the natural resources.
      Today, WKU faculty and students utilize the cave valley to study:
        • Karst Topography
        • Hydrology
        • Civil Engineering
        • Biology
        • Botany
        • Weather
        • Non-profit Management
        • Professional Development
        • Environmental Conservation
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        Incorporated in 1990, The Friends of the Lost River was organized to provide stability for the restoration work and research. This organization facilitates the use of Lost River Cave as an educational laboratory for faculty and students and prioritizes the hiring of WKU graduates, interns, and student workers to fill its full-time and seasonal staff positions.
        The 25-acre valley, owned by WKU, provides a natural environment for field-research. Students from WKU’s Department of Geology and Geography are most commonly found taking advantage of its natural features.
          WKU researchers have investigated subjects such as hydrology, karst biology, and karst engineering. Their findings have had implications for public health and public standards. In addition, global connections have been fostered through research at the cave. In 2012, a UNESCO research team worked with WKU to facilitate research at the park that would develop standard operating procedures for measuring atmospheric CO2 consumption.
            Today, there are multiple studies being conducted on the property owned by WKU at Lost River Cave. One on-going study is examining permanent mineral erosion. The findings of this study could inform researchers and conservationists of possible reasons for erosion like waterborne pollutants and climate change, explaining changes in karst topography. Another study is investigating how commercial development in a karst region impacts the underlying ecosystem.
            Research
            Service is the foundational cornerstone of the WKU-Lost River Cave partnership. For the past 40 years, WKU volunteers have contributed thousands of hours to make the valley the urban sanctuary it is today. Students and faculty who volunteer at the park practice social responsibility, while engaging with the community and nature. Their efforts not only benefit the park, the environment and visitors from around the world, but help protect Lost River Cave’s natural and historical resources.
              Big Red Blitz, the first volunteer event of the school year, invites incoming WKU students to participate in an invasive plant pull. Students with the Gatton Academy, WKU Forensics team, and the School of Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport volunteer regularly at the cave.
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              Lost River Cave offers a unique opportunity for students to become engaged with nature, providing a more holistic and well-rounded educational experience. Many WKU departments and organizations have utilized Lost River Cave’s park as a resource:
                  WKU meetings, events, and trainings also take place at Lost River Cave. The Department of Financial Assistance, Department of Applied Human Sciences, WKU Symphony, and the Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability have all used the park for professional development and learning.
                  Class
                  From the start, the relationship between Lost River Cave and WKU was strong and remains so today. Many departments and their faculty members utilize Lost River Cave to enrich their curriculum, while also offering up their expertise in service of the conservation effort.
                    WKU Biology Faculty: WKU Geography and Geology Faculty:
                    • Dr. Stuart Foster
                      • Partners in the Mesonet project by hosting a station in Lost River Cave’s prairie
                    • Dr. Chris Groves
                      • Lost River Cave works with Graduate students to provide data collection opportunities for thesis work in hydrology
                    • Dr. Jason Polk
                      • Lost River Cave works with his Graduate students to provide data collection opportunities for thesis work in hydrology
                      • Provides open access to his WKU lab as a field trip location for the Karst STEM Camp
                    • Dr. Leslie North
                      • Lost River Cave works with her Graduate students to provide data collection opportunities for their thesis work in non-formal education in show caves
                    WKU Agriculture Department Faculty: WKU Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport Faculty and Associates:
                    • Dr. Raymond Poff
                      • Hosts Lost River Cave CEO, Rho Lansden, once a year for guest lecture
                    • Annie Holt
                      • Active member of the Undergraduate Curriculum Review and Internship Committee for the Department of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport
                    • Tammy Stenger-Ramsey
                      • Guest lectures “Leave No Trace” classes at Lost River Cave special events
                    • The park provides internships to many of the Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport undergraduate and graduate students annually
                    WKU School of Teacher Education Faculty:
                    • Dr. Jeanine Huss
                      • Uses Lost River Cave location to hold professional development seminars for teachers
                    WKU Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability Staff:
                    • Dr. Terry Wilson
                      • Uses Lost River Cave location to hold professional development seminars for teachers