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The University of New Mexico & The Office of Animal Research, Ethics, Care, and Compliance. present Field Safety Training: Underground A learning module developed by OARECC. Introduction.

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the university of new mexico the office of animal research ethics care and compliance

The University of New Mexico& The Office of Animal Research, Ethics, Care, and Compliance


Field Safety Training:


A learning module developed by OARECC

  • This module was developed to prepare you while at the University of New Mexico, for doing field research in caves or mines.
general information on caves
General Information on Caves
  • Caves provide a unique environment for animals and have their own specialized ecosystem
  • There are unique hazards associated with the area where the work will be done and the species that will be encountered.
  • Caves often require specialized training and equipment to make them accessible
  • Follow established trails or tracks to minimize damage to the cave.
  • Follow the National Speleological Society motto: "Take nothing but pictures, kill nothing but time, and leave nothing but well placed footprints."
the following pertain to field research in caves
The following pertain to Field Research in Caves
  • General Health and physical wellbeing of the participant
  • Specialized Training and Equipment
  • Protective gear
  • Species that might be encountered
general health of the participant
General Health of the Participant
  • A cave environment has many physical demands
  • Terrain can be treacherous and unforgiving
  • Access may require long hikes or climbing with gear and supplies
  • Temperature and Humidity may be factors
  • Potential health risks include fungi and their spores (e.g. Histoplasma capsulatum, which causes histoplasmosis), bacteria and viruses (e.g. the virus that causes rabies), and dehydration and hypothermia
specialized training and equipment
Specialized Trainingand Equipment
  • All persons working in caves must have appropriate training.
  • Training can be obtained from grottos (chapters or clubs) of the National Speleological Society. Locally our grotto is the Sandia Grotto (
  • All persons working in caves must have appropriate equipment
  • Documentation of training must be filed with the OARECC prior to doing any work in caves
appropriate training
Appropriate Training
  • Review the Location and the Nature of the Work to be done
  • Some caves have clear paths and easy access
  • Some caves require hard climbing or even rappelling on ropes
  • Some caves are small and narrow and require crawling
  • Caves can generate a feeling of claustrophobia in those who are susceptible
appropriate training can you
Appropriate TrainingCan YOU:
  • Rappel on a rope down a rock face or open hole?
  • Pack supplies over a considerable distance?
  • Climb up and down rocks?
  • Crawl through confined spaces?
protective gear what to wear
Protective GearWhat to Wear?
  • Filter masks should be worn in caves when absolutely necessary, use HEPA-filter masks where animal droppings are present
  • Sturdy, non-marking boots are essential to keep from damaging caves by leaving black scuff marks
  • Sturdy clothing appropriate to the temperature of the cave, which can vary from -2oC to 20oC in NM.
  • Leather gloves should also be worn because of sharp rocks and surfaces
  • Use the rule of threes: Take three sources of lights (one helmet mounted)
  • A helmet is needed for falling rocks
typical cave dwellers
Typical Cave Dwellers
  • Cave dwellers will be dependent upon the area – Tropical caves will have different species from Desert caves andMany cave species are endemic to just one cave or the county in which they occur
  • Research your area to determine what are likely inhabitants
  • Commonly, you will see bats, birds, cave crickets, and other arthropods
  • Depending upon the location and time of year, you may also find larger mammals in the cave
  • Some cave dwellers have the potential to be dangerous or even venomous
cave dwellers common
Cave DwellersCommon:
  • Troglobites, trogloxenes and troglophiles
  • (Literally "cave dwellers") are obligate cave dwellers that live their entire lives in caves
  • Include: Flatworms, Isopods, Amphipods, Eyeless cave shrimp, cave crayfish, bristletails, collembola, eyeless fish, cave beetles
  • (Literally "cave guests") Cannot complete their life history in the cave
  • Includes: crickets, bats, pack rats, flies and gnats
  • (Literally "cave lovers") Can pass their life history either in cool, dark, moist areas outside the cave or in caves if there is sufficient food
  • Include: segmented worms, snails, copepods, spiders, phalangids, mites, pseudoscorpions, millipedes, cave beetles (carabids)
cave environment
Cave Environment
  • The cave world does not change as rapidly as our sunlit world; however, change does occur.
  • Typically, in the Deep Zone of caves the temperature does NOT vary and in fact approximates that of the mean annual temperature for the region unless you're deep enough to start seeing the effects of geothermal heating.
  • In a sense, the cave has its own weather system. In some caves wind is created by temperature differences between the entrance and interior passageways. This causes a "chimney effect," resulting in a wind chill factor underground. The chimney effect can also produce "rain" inside the cave by altering the dew point. Condensation in caves can be promoted by other factors than the chimney effect.
  • The final contributor to cave weather is the barometric pressure. Barometric pressure causes caves to breathe and suck, which indirectly affect humidity or dew point.
  • Be prepared – clothing and protective gear
  • Cave temperatures and humidity can vary greatly from the surface
  • Caves contain a fragile ecosystem
  • Many caves require specialized training and a strong physical ability to access
this concludes module 12 where s the work underground
This Concludes Module 12 – Where’s the Work: Underground
  • Please download the exam, complete it, then e-mail it to
  • For more information, or if you have questions, please contact OACC @ 272-6806
  • This training module was reviewed by UNM expert Dr. Diana Northup
  • Content approved by IACUC, 03 April 2006