Date of Graduation

Spring 2016


Master of Science in Geospatial Sciences


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Committee Chair

Douglas Gouzie


The midcontinent of the United States has thousands of documented caves. These caves contain cave sediments, which are the accumulation of biological, geological, and anthropological debris. At this time there is no known database for trace metals of cave sediments of the midcontinent United States. Considering that caves host a wide variety of life, it is important to create a database to examine potential effects of trace metals on cave systems. In order to develop this baseline, 14 caves were sampled from across the midcontinent. Caves were selected based on geologic and hydrologic attributes. The sediments were analyzed for the following suite of metals: Al, As, B, Ba, Ca, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, La, Mg, Mn, Ni, P, Pb, S, Sr, V, and Zn. As documented in this study, metal variation among caves is dictated by land use history, surficial watersheds, and geology. The preliminary results indicated that mineralization and anthropogenic impacts amplified trace metal concentrations in two caves, which were omitted to further evaluate the remaining 12 caves based on geologic and hydrologic factors. When geologic factors were examined, the geochemical variation between evaporites and carbonates resulted in B, Mg, S, and Sr concentrations being clearly associated with evaporites, while the differences between limestone and dolostone are primarily related to the mineralogy. When hydrologic attributes were analyzed, urban areas were more enriched with Cd, Cu, La, Mn, and Zn because of the multitude of potential sources available in urban areas over rural areas.


karst, cave sediments, trace metals, geochemistry, midcontinent

Subject Categories

Geochemistry | Sedimentology | Speleology


© Matthew Dale Smith

Open Access