Welcome to the Subterranean Ecology Institute, Inc. (SEI), a federal 501(c)3 non-profit corporation.
SEI is documenting, studying & conserving subterranean ecosystems, providing greater understanding and protection for our fragile heritage underfoot. Through outreach and education, we hope to touch people's lives, and give them a greater appreciation of the importance of subterranean ecosystems.
Lava tubes, such as this one in northern California, often have a unique fauna of cave-limited organisms adapated to cool moist conditions.
A cliff-face cave entrance in Puerto Rico, looking out over agricultural fields. The ways in which humans utilize the landscape has a major influence on subterranean ecosystems. SEI seeks to help local communities better understand the connectivity of their above ground activities with the subterranean realm. Minor changes to land use practicies can protect subterranean diversity and our natural heritage.
Cave researchers in a shallow cave in the Bahamas. Note the tree roots hanging down into the cave. Energy from trees and other vegetation is critical to the functioning of subterranean ecosystems, thus we see close ties between above-ground vegetative communities and subterranean ecosystem health.
In the western United States, hot, dry, arid terrain between caves can function as a major barrier to dispersal, and thus in some areas there are higher levels of endemicity of cave faunas, as for this cave in Utah. Without basic knowledge of the fauna of specific areas, land managers don't have the tools needed to make informed decisions regarding resource protection.
Subterranean Ecology Institute is receiving funds from the Cave Conservancy Foundation which will allow a team of cave biologists, the Stygobromus Working Group (SWG), led by project PIs Mike Slay, Megan Porter and Matt Niemiller to expand conservation efforts in the Ozarks karst region. Targeting Ozark subterranean amphipod species, the SWG biologists will obtain specimens which will serve as morphological and molecular reference material for systematic studies. Additional, the research team will conduct conservation assessments for each Ozark Stygobromus species to highlight species and populations of greatest conservation concern, and to ascertain threats and factors associated with extinction risk. A further benefit of the project will be the opportunities made available to train scientists, resource managers, and other interested parties in skills needed for identification of cave-adapted amphipods.
The Subterranean Ecology Institute is providing support for the upcoming 23rd International Conference on Subterranean Biology to be held in Fayetteville, Arkansas (USA) on 13-17 June 2016. Check it out!
The Subterranean Ecology Institute has accepted the resignation of Board Treasurer and founding Board Member Ira Taylor. In addition to serving on the Board, Ira has been a generous supporter of the organization. We are deeply grateful for his wisdom and support during our first few years as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit. We hope to continue to benefit from his guidance moving into the future.
Filling the vacancy left by Ira's retirement, the Subterranean Ecology Institute is pleased to announce that Dr. Matt Niemiller has accepted our offer to serve on the Board. Matt brings a strong background in subterranean ecology, and is sure to help us move forward into the future.
The Subterranean Ecology Institute provided significant financial support to Clifftop to help with the purchase of a property comprised of farmland, woodlands, and sinkhole ponds atop Fogelpole Cave in the sinkhole plain karst terrain of Monroe County, Illinois. More details are available on Clifftop's website.
The Subterranean Ecology Institute's 2013 Annual Report is available to download.
The final report Subterranean Ecology Institute's 2012 expedition to southern Belize is now available for download.
Subterranean Ecology Institute received funds from the Cave Conservancy of the Virginias which will allow a team of cave biologists, the Stygobromus Working Group, led by project PIs Megan Porter, Mike Slay and Matt Niemiller, to collect specimens and tissue samples and assess specimen localities to help develop conservation priorities and management recommendations. More information available on our projects page.
Subterranean Ecology Institute's 2011 expedition turned up two tiny springtails species which are new to science. These animals have been described in the online journal ZooKeys. The authors Felipe Soto-Adames and Steve Taylor (both of the University of Illinois) describe these species and review morphological characters and the distribution of the species related to the newly described animals. The 40 page scientific article includes photographs by SEI expedition members Mike Slay and Geoff Hoese, in including photographs of in-cave habitats where these animals were collected in southern Belize. One of the two species Trogolaphysa jacobyi, is a troglobiont, and is named for one of the collectors, SEI Secretary JoAnn Jacoby (pictured in foreground, below).
OK, it is really just a small, radio controlled quadcopter. The Subterranean Ecology Institute will deploy its newly purchased unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to take photographs of karst terrain to further our education and outreach goals. Click on the small image below to see a larger image of the aircraft in front of limestone bluffs forming the edge of Illinois' sinkhole plain karst area in Monroe County.
A silverfish (a type of primitive insect) collected during the Subterranean Ecology Institute's 2012 expedition in a cave in southern Belize is the topic of a new paper published in the online journal Speleobiology Notes. The authors Luis Espinasa (Marist College), Steve Taylor (University of Illinois) and Monika Espinasa (State University of New York Ulster) record this species for the first time from Belize and compare it to other collections of this cryptic, cave-associated species. You can read the whole paper here.
A spider collected during the Subterranean Ecology Institute's 2011 expedition in a cave in southern Belize has been described as a new species in a paper published in the online journal ZooKeys. The authors Jason Bond (Auburn University) and Steve Taylor (University of Illinois) named the species in honor of major SEI donor Ira Taylor, in recognition of his contributions to the study of subterranean ecosystems. You can read the whole paper here.
The Subterranean Ecology Institute is most pleased to announce that we are receiving a grant from the National Speleological Foundation in support of our upcoming 2013 fieldwork in Belize (see our projects page).
The Subterranean Ecology Institute's 2012 Annual Report is available to download.
A team of researchers returned to southern Belize during the Spring of 2012 continuing documentation of cave life of this region. Several caves were visited for the first time by biologists, and others were revisited to obtain additional material needed for ongoing new species descriptions.
The work was funded by individual donors to SEI, as well as a grant from the National Speleological Society Foundation.
The Subterranean Ecology Institute is most pleased to announce that we are receiving a grant from the National Speleological Foundation in support of our 2012 fieldwork in Belize (see our projects page).
The Subterranean Ecology Institute produced its' first Annual Report, which is available for download.
The final report Subterranean Ecology Institute's 2011 expedition to southern Belize is now available for download.
The Subterranean Ecology Institute is presented findings froum our 2011 field work in Belize at the annual meeting of the National Speleological Society. The presentation was titled "The cave fauna of Toledo District of Belize: a preliminary assessment."
The Subterranean Ecology Institute is proud to announce the availability of a slide show covering our recent expedition to southern Belize. Click on our Projects page, and scroll to the bottom - within the slide show you can click in the lower right to make it display full screen.
The Subterranean Ecology Institute is most pleased to announce that we are receiving a grant from the National Speleological Foundation in support of our 2011 fieldwork in Belize (see our projects page). This grant will help us document subterranean ecosystems of Belize and to work with Belizian government agencies in support of management of their cave resources and to provide information for outreach and education to local guides and others. We will be reporting back to the funding agency via a presentation at the National Speleological Society Convention and/or article in the US national caving magazine, The NSS News.