GSA Field Trip 403:  Accessible Cave and Karst Geology of the Mammoth Cave National Park Region

Friday & Saturday, November 2 & 3, 2018

For the first time, this fully accessible field trip (#403) will span two days prior to the Geological Society of America (GSA) Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

This field trip is open to post-secondary students, geoscience faculty and industry practitioners.  PREFERENCE WILL BE GIVEN TO THOSE WITH DISABILITIES.  To insure that persons with disabilities are given first priority, everyone must complete the application form.  If you are accepted to participate, you must make arrangements to arrive at the Indianapolis Convention Center no later than 11;00 a.m. on Friday, November 2.  Conference registration, transportation to Indianapolis and lodging at the Annual Meeting are at your own expense.   Field-trip registration and all related trip expenses, including overnight lodging during the trip will be covered.

The deadline to apply is Friday, September 14.  Notification of acceptances will be sent prior to October 1, which is the deadline to apply for travel grants and an early registration discount.

To apply, visit:



  • The International Association for Geoscience Diversity
  • GSA Geoscience Education Division
  • GSA Karst Division
  • GSA Diversity Committee
  • National Cave and Karst Research Institute

The Geological Society of America (GSA) offers dozens of field trips each year through the annual and sectional meetings. Most of these field trips are not designed to support students or faculty who are physically unable to participate in traditional field-based learning.  To support these GSA members with temporary or permanent disabilities, we offer fully this inclusive field trip as an accessible option for exploration of the natural environment.

The 2018 accessible field trip will focus on the karst region surrounding Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. Trip leaders will place a strong emphasis on active learning and collaboration as participants consider their surroundings and use their observations to make inferences about the geologic processes which shaped, and continue to shape each location.  This trip is offered to both students with disabilities to build on their interest in the environment, and to promote the geosciences as a viable degree and career option.  Additionally, this trip is open to geoscience faculty with disabilities, enabling them to remain actively engaged in their discipline and sharing their knowledge and experience with the next generation of geoscience practitioners. If space permits, geoscience faculty without disabilities will be invited to participate to learn accommodation strategies first-hand from the students.

This field trip has three primary objectives: 1) to provide a fully-inclusive field-based learning experience for students and faculty with a variety of disabilities (orthopedic/mobility, deaf/hard-of-hearing, blind/low-vision, cognitive, and social-emotional); 2) to provide a unique training opportunity for geoscience faculty learning how to accommodate students with disabilities in geoscience field courses; and 3) to extend the network of people and resources developed from recent accessible field trips, courses and research projects.  These objectives will drive the collaborative nature of this inclusive and accessible two-day field trip where participants will work with and learn from each other’s perspectives and experiences.

These trips are intended to engage with a community of learners who are typically denied the opportunity to actively participate in fieldwork. They are innovative in their aim of providing a field experience for students with various disabilities, providing an opportunity for current geoscience faculty to work directly with these students in a field-based learning environment, and their design in using emerging technologies to enhance inclusiveness through real-time communication and collaboration when unavoidable physical barriers separate trip participants in the field.


Coming soon!


Primary Leader and co-Leaders Biography and Experience

Chris Atchison

Dr. Chris Atchison received a Ph.D. in Geoscience Education from the Ohio State University and is currently is an Associate Professor of Geoscience Education at the University of Cincinnati.  His research focuses on enhancing access and inclusion in the Earth sciences through experiential learning opportunities for students with sensory and orthopedic disabilities.  He has led multiple accessible field-based learning experiences for students and faculty with physical, sensory, cognitive, and social-emotional disabilities, including a trip to the proposed field trip site at Mammoth Cave National Park in 2010.  He is a Past-Chair of the GSA Geoscience Education Division and Executive Director of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD).

Field Trip Experience:

  • 2017 Co-Leader:  414:  Accessible Field Geology of Western Washington, Seattle, WA
  • 2016 Co-Leader:  417: An Accessible Journey through Geologic Time in Central Colorado, Denver, CO
  • 2014 Co-Leader:  416: Full Access to the Geology of the Sea-to-Sky Highway, Vancouver, BC
  • 2010 Dissertation Study:

Brett Gilley

Gilley completed his MSc in Earth Science at Simon Fraser University in 2004 and immediately became involved in teaching, facilitating teaching workshops, and designing courses. Brett is a Senior Instructor in Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of British Columbia (UBC). For seven years he was a Science Teaching and Learning Fellow as part of the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative at UBC. Brett has been a member of the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD) since 2010.

Field Trip Experience:

  • 2016 Co-Leader:  417: An Accessible Journey through Geologic Time in Central Colorado, Denver, CO
  • 2014 Co-Leader: 416: Full Access to the Geology of the Sea-to-Sky Highway, Vancouver, BC

Rickard Toomey

Dr. Rickard Toomey is the Cave Resource Management Specialist at Mammoth Cave National Park, and the former Research Director of the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning.  In these positions he regularly leads or coordinates field excursions in the Mammoth Cave area and helps coordinate research involving caves, karst systems, and bats at the park, communicating research results to various groups.  He functions as a geologist, hydrologist, or biologist as the need arises.  Prior to coming to Mammoth Cave, he was the Science and Research Director for Arizona State Parks and a Curator of Geology at the Illinois State Museum.   By training Rick is a geologist (B.S from Brown University and Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin).  His geological work has focused on vertebrate paleontology and how fossil remains help us reconstruct past environments.

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Disclaimer: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0939645. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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