Graduate School

Basic speleology

This course is part of the programme:
Karstology (Third Level)

Objectives and competences

Caves are one of the most distinctive karst phenomena. The shape of their networks, the lengthwise or transverse cross-sections of their individual parts (passages or shafts), their rock relief, and their contents (alluvium and flowstone) all disclose the progress of their morphology and development. Unique caves develop in different regional frameworks, in various rock under various conditions, and through different processes. They are shaped by various water streams and percolating water. Caves reveal to us the flow of water through karst aquifers and their development and hold reserves of drinking water. Through a variety of activities and by logically correlating the indicators of the development of the cavernosity of karst aquifers, students will gain a comprehensive awareness of the karst as part of our natural and cultural heritage, the basis for planning life in karst regions and their protection.



Content (Syllabus outline)

Introductory presentations

  • Karst caves and karst aquifers
  • Basic speleological work and literature
  • Terminology
  • Development of speleology

Basic methods of cave research

  • Cartography
  • Geological and hydrological methods
  • Morphological methods
  • Use of electronic measuring equipment and stations
  • Methods of studying cave alluvia and flowstone

Forms of karst caves

  • Cave networks
  • Cross-sections of passages
  • Rock relief in caves

Morphological cave processes

  • Measuring specific chemical and physical indicators of water and air
  • Statistical and computer modelling

Rational classification of caves

  • Location
  • Size
  • Rock
  • Origin
  • Shape
  • Hydrological role

Karst aquifers

  • Cavernosity
  • Development

Regional speleology

  • Dispersion and distribution of caves relative to different types of karst and diverse geological, geomorphological, hydrological, and climate characteristics
  • Caves in Slovenia

Starting points for using acquired knowledge and skills

Intended learning outcomes

Student gets introduction to the origin and shaping of the karst caves in different geological and geomorphological and hydrogeological circumstances and their development in Slovenia and different regions around world. Student recognizes caves as part of aquifer cavernosity and its development and complex development of karst. Student gets ability for autonomous recognizing and researching of karst caves and aquifers.


  • Bretz, J.H., 1942: Vadose and phreatic features of limestone caves.- J. Geol., 50 (6), 675-811.
  • Kranjc, A., 1989: Recent fluvial cave sediments, their origin and role in speleogenesis.- Opera 4.razreda, SAZU, ZRC, Inštitut za raziskovanje krasa, 27, 1, 1-167, Ljubljana.
  • Gams, I., 2004: Kras v Sloveniji.- Založba ZRC, p.515, Ljubljana.
  • Gillieson, D., 1996: Caves: processes, development and management.- Blackwell Publishers, Oxford & Cambridge.
  • Klimchouk, A. B., D. C. Ford, A. N. Palmer, W. Dreybrodt (eds.), 2000: Speleogenesis, Evolution of Karst Aquifers.- National Speleological Society, Huntsville, Alabama, USA, p. 527.
  • Palmer, A.N., 2007: Cave Geology.- Cave Books, Dayton, Ohio, p. 454.
  • Slabe, T., 1995: Cave Rocky Relief and its Speleogenetical Significance, ZRC 10, Ljubljana, p. 128.
  • Chosen article from scientific journals.


To sit the examination, students must actively participate in the seminars and complete a short seminar assignment. 50/50

Lecturer's references

Full Professor of Karstology.


University course code: 3KR031

Year of study: 1

Semester: 2

Course principal:



  • Lectures: 50 hours
  • Exercises: 5 hours
  • Seminar: 30 hours
  • Field exercises: 5 hours
  • Individual work: 90 hours

Course type: elective

Languages: slovene, english

Learning and teaching methods:
• lectures • field lectures and research • project work • presentation and interpreation