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The scientific study of Texas caves and karst has passed two distinct periods and is on the verge of crossing into a third. The first period dates from 1849 to 1982. At that time, the word “karst” was unknown to most geologists in the state. Caves were occasionally mentioned in geological reports until 1948, but they were rarely studied. In the 1960s, cave explorers-turned-scientists began investigating Texas caves, but their work was often seen as lightweight science because caves were usually considered geologic curiosities of little importance. However, extensive exploration and documentation of caves, plus some respected cave research outside of the geosciences, led to the second period of research, dating from 1983 to the present. This was a transitional period where karst was increasingly recognized and karst research methods were pioneered, although often by people lacking sufficient understanding of karst to be fully accurate or effective. During this period, the expertise of karst scientists gained respect despite the persistence of some old prejudices, and caves began to reappear with greater frequency in technical reports. Many of these changes were prompted by the listing of several karst invertebrates as endangered species, which required detailed hydrogeological cave and karst research, in addition to biological research, across much of the Edwards Aquifer region. The third period of karst research has nearly arrived. It will be recognized when most geoscientists understand karst, that it requires specialized training and experience like other geological disciplines, and when research of karst areas routinely uses karst-appropriate tools, theories, and consideration for the many degrees of permeability that occur. The future of cave and karst research in Texas will see important technological advances and a focus on hydrological and biological karst resource management as the combined impacts of population growth and climate change increasingly affect the state.

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