Cave ecology

– So, also with us today is Gretchen Baker and she’s a cave ecologist. Now, before you get started,
I have to let you know. Before this, I didn’t know the difference between a cave and a hole in the ground. So, tell me kinda what
it is that you study, what do you do? – I and other biologists and ecologists are really interested
in bats, salamanders, and other creatures that live in caves. They bring nutrients into caves and that’s a really important process. Water’s a big deal as well. We’ll be checking out how
water connects the biota from the surface to the subsurface. And we also study what lives
in different zones of the cave. – So, caves have zones? – They sure do, shall we take a look? – Yeah, let’s go exploring. – Okay, wait, wait, wait, wait. If you’re getting me in that thing, we’re gonna talk safety first, alright? So what are some ways
that we can stay safe inside the cave? – Caves are fun to explore, but
it’s important to stay safe. So, never go underground alone, make sure you have the
appropriate training and gear to explore a cave. Always go in a group
with experienced cavers. If you are interested in caves and many places in the country, you can go visit right now
with an experienced guide. – Here’s our gear, let’s suit up. (whimsical music) – There are three zones in a cave. This opening, where we are standing, is called the entrance zone. When a person pictures a cave, they usually imagine this area and the animals and plants
that are associated with it. Notice the change in temperature. – Yeah. It’s way cooler down here
than it was up there. – When air moves in and out of the cave, it causes changes in temperature. And these changes create
a special environment. This is where life enters
and leaves the cave and this area around cave entrances and sinkholes is very important. Let’s walk a little further into the cave. – Alright, after you. – This area is known as the twilight zone. Many rare plants and
animals like to hang out in this zone, which is a
little further underground. And if you look further back, you can see the dark zone. – The dark zone. – Believe it or not, there are different kinds of life that live in the dark zone as well. Let’s head on back and see what’s there. (whimsical music) – It’s crazy cold in here. – It is, the cave is a
constant 58 degrees Fahrenheit and almost 100 percent
humidity year round. The cave temperature reflects the average outside
temperature of the area. So if you go to a colder
climate or higher elevation, the cave will be colder. And if you go someplace warmer, then that cave would be warmer. – Hey look, there’s some light up there and a camera’s coming down. Is this another entrance into the cave? – Yes, there can be many
entrances into one cave system. This means there are many places where nutrients and energy
can enter the system and also many different habitats for different creatures. – Off rope. – Hey, what are you doing in the cave? – I’m part of the team mapping
the cave with Fernando. Do you wanna come with me to find the team and learn more about the cave? – Actually, that sounds awesome. – And I’m gonna go join up with my group of researchers. – Well, I hope we can find you down here because I can’t wait to see
what it is you all discover.

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