Cave researcher helps to prevent disease 


One of the world’s top cave explorers is in Darwin this week to unveil the potentially lifesaving secrets held in the deep dark depths of caves around the world.

Cave microbiologist Dr Hazel Barton has been caving in more than 1000 caves on five different continents and will present her research today at Charles Darwin University as part of Science Week.

For the past 20 years Dr Barton has combined her passion for caving with studying the microbial life that inhibits caves, researching cures for antibiotic-resistant diseases, clean drinking water, global warming, astrobiology, and planetary protection.

One of the top cave explorers and mappers in the United States, Dr Barton has uncovered unique antibiotics and discovered the role of microorganisms in filtering drinking water. She has contributed to global warming research by looking at how cave microbes can turn carbon dioxide into stable calcium carbonate, and is currently collaborating with NASA in examining the similarities between cave conditions and the subsurfaces on Mars.

An Ashland Professor of Integrative Science and Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Science at Northern Kentucky University, Dr Barton is also director of the National Speleological Society, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to the study, conservation, exploration and knowledge of caves. She has also received numerous awards for the maps she has produced for both dry and underwater caves.

In 2001 Dr Barton co-starred in the IMAX film, Journey Into Amazing Caves, which followed her explorations into unusual caves such as the amazing ice caves in Greenland and the underwater caves in the jungles of Mexico.

Dr Barton’s unique expeditions have been profiled in a number of television documentaries such as Animal Planet and the History Channel, and in a range of magazines, radio and television shows.

Her presentation entitled ”The Geomicrobiology of Cave Environments” is on today, Tuesday, 17 August from 4pm to 5pm in Building Blue 5.1.01 at CDU’s Casuarina campus.