skip all navigation
skip banner links
skip primary navigation

Fort Stanton Cave, New Mexico: Science Conference
Macey Center, New Mexico Tech, Socorro, NM
September 16-18, 2021

This conference has been postponed until 2021 due to global pandemic concerns. Consider submitting a preliminary abstract now to aid in planning. Revisions will be possible until late-summer of 2021.

Snowy River passage, Ft Stanton Cave
Snowy River in Fort Stanton Cave
Photo by John Ganter with assistance from Kat Rix
Biological speleothem, Ft Stanton Cave
Unusual biological feature in one the newly discovered passages at the far south end of Snowy River.
Photo by Garrett Jorgensen


The primary goal of this conference is to gather together the many individuals who have been working on various scientific and related aspects of Fort Stanton Cave (FSC) to share results, cross-fertilize their work with other investigators, and hopefully to stimulate more interest in scientific projects into the future.

With the discovery of the Snowy River passage in Fort Stanton Cave on September 1, 2001, FSC has emerged as one of the most scientifically significant caves in the west. A major publication has been produced by the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project titled 12 Miles from Daylight: Fort Stanton Cave and the Snowy River Discoverythat provides a wealth of background information about the cave. Ongoing and new scientific research adds valuable knowledge to the many scientific questions surrounding the cave.

Meeting Details:

(PDF version)

Purpose: Presentation of geoscience research in and around Fort Stanton Cave.

When: September 16-18, 2021 (registration opens at 7:30 AM, meeting begins at 8:00 AM)

Where: Macey Center, New Mexico Tech, Socorro, NM

Special Theme: "Snowy River"

Keynote Speaker: TBA (more information)

Technical Chair: Mike Spilde — 505-277-5430

Logistics Chair: Cynthia Connolly — 575-835-5264

Registration Chair: Connie Apache — 575-835-5302

Lodging: see the Socorro County Chamber of Commerce and Socorro Heritage and Visitors Center

Call For Abstracts

Abstracts are invited for posters or oral presentations. Abstracts should be submitted online or may be accepted in other formats in special cases (contact the Program Chair for details). Please view the help page for formatting guidelines.

Abstracts must be submitted by Sunday, September 5, 2021 and be 1000 words or less.

Preliminary Ft Stanton Cave Science Conference Topics

While the conference will deal primarily with the Fort Stanton Cave (FSC) complex, we welcome abstracts on applicable cave science such as regional NM geology, speleogenesis, and talks about other cave systems that are similar or their knowledge is applicable to FSC.

Potential topics and themes

  • Geology and Geophysics: Within this theme, we hope to promote a general understanding of FSC area geology
  • Speleogenesis: How did FSC form? What can we learn from other cave systems?
  • Hydrology: Can the hydrology of the Ruidoso/Ft Stanton area inform us about the source of water in Snowy River and how to protect it from surface contamination?
  • Cave History, Archaeology, and Management: This theme will promote learning from the past to protect the cave for future generations.
  • Exploration and Survey: Within this theme, would like to present on-going exploration of FSC and what wondrous things have been found.
  • Mineralogy and Geochemistry: This theme should reveal the many unusual features and formations of FSC, including its incredible paleoclimate archives.
  • Biology: In addition to mineral formations, FSC provides potential for biological and geomicrobiological studies.
  • Cave Microclimate: We would like to address general cave micrometeorology in this theme to understand the potential for studies in FSC.


Online pre-registraton will be available: Sunday, August 1, 2021 at 12:00 AM.

We expect about 80 to 120 conference participants drawn from those who already have been producing scientific, photographic, cartographic, and other types of projects in the cave and extending to experts in various topics who have not previously worked in FSC but who are leaders in their respective subjects. We also hope to attract early career professionals and students to the FSC site.


The conference structure includes Day 1 of scientific presentations by the FSC community investigators. Day 2 will be devoted to breakout sessions in different broad topics including hydrology of the system, geological setting and speleogenesis, biology and microbiology, and others as appropriate. The breakout sessions mandate is to produce a summary of the state of the art of knowledge about FSC and relevant work in the speleological sciences and arts in general and to help map out future directions for inquiry. Day 3 will present a field trip to relevant hydrological, geological, and biological sites in the area surrounding the cave.

Talon Newton, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources,
Penelope Boston, NASA,

Scientific Organizing Committee:
Mike Spilde, Chair, UNM,; Johanna Blake, USGS,; Diana Northup, UNM,; Victor Polyak, UNM,; John Lyles, LANL,

Please contact the conveners or science committee to be put on the list for more information.