The Karst Award is an award given annually to an outstanding member of the cave and karst field.
Karst Award winner for 2015: Dr. David C. Culver
The 2015 Karst Award honoree is Dr. David C. Culver. He will speak at the March 14, 2015, awards banquet on the topic of “Why Study Cave Life?”
Dr. Culver received his B.A. in Biology from Grinnell College (1966) and Ph.D. in Biology from Yale University (1970) with the dissertation titled Analysis of Simple Cave Communities. He began his academic career with an appointment as Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Northwestern University in 1971. His career advanced to the level of Full Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology during his tenure at Northwestern that came to an end in 1987. Moving to American University in Washington, DC, in 1987, Culver joined the faculty of the Department of Biology and later led the formation of the Department of Environmental Science in 2008 where he now holds his faculty appointment. Culver has acted as Department Chair in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Northwestern and in Biology at American University, and he has been Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Associate Dean for Science, both at American.
David Culver has conducted cutting-edge research on cave life and published “the” book on that topic: Cave Life (1982, Harvard Univ. Press). His work on biological diversity in cave communities resulted in new concepts of the biogeography of subterranean life. Culver advanced theories about species evolution subsequent to organism isolation in caves that revolutionized our understanding of biogeography. Detailed studies of predation and competition, feeding behaviors, and morphological changes in cave organisms all connected to his insights into evolutionary theory. Sustained efforts to identify and fully describe new species in locations around the world added to his comprehensive study of cave life. Connectivity to the surface environment or among caves added to the complexity of his maturing understanding of cave life and its various adaptations. Culver developed tools to access sampling gaps and quantify species richness that added rigor to studies of cave life. His work on biodiversity and available habitat speaks to issues in species conservation and cave protection.
Culver is a prolific writer. With approximately 90 refereed journal articles, more than 30 book chapters, and 12 books, Culver is educating the world about cave life and about caves. His Encyclopedia of Caves with co-editor William B. White (2005 and 2012, Elsevier Academic Press) is comprehensive and up-to-date. His recent book Biology of Caves and Other Subterranean Habitats with co-author Tanya Pipan (2009, Oxford Univ. Press) extends the textbook coverage of the topic he addressed in his first book in 1982.
Culver is a leader in the karst community. He led the creation of the Karst Waters Institute in 1991. Culver has served KWI as a member of the Board of Directors, Executive Vice-President, and President of KWI. He is currently the KWI Comptroller. Culver is a National Speleological Society Honorary Life Member and Fellow. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Cave Conservancy Foundation and is a member of the Virginia Cave Board.
The science of cave and karst studies would not be where it is today without Culver’s many contributions. Our understanding of cave life derives directly from his life’s work.