The University of Georgia Laboratory for Speleothem Studies is a suite of laboratories involved the analysis of speleothems, both to address research questions about stalagmites, stalactites, and flowstones and to recover information for paleoenvironmental interpretation. Our research includes study of speleothems from Africa, Asia, and North America, and has been funded by The National Science Foundation, The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and The National Geographic Society, and it has involved speleothems from Madagascar, Botswana, Namibia, Egypt, Britain, Belize, the United States, and China.

     Speleothems are fascinating in themselves as growing and often beautiful mineral deposits from within the earth. Their principal scientific significance is their use as paleoenvironmental records. As interest in the modern earth-surface environment has grown, the need for a better understanding of the history of that environment has grown too. However, materials at the land surface, such as soils, undergo constant erosion, so that their preservation as a paleoenvironmental record is limited. Speleothems, on the other hand, provide a valuable paleoenvironmental record because they form near the earth surface and respond to changing earth-surface conditions, but they reside below the surface and thus are protected from erosion and destruction for millenia.

    Dr. George Brook is one of the principal researchers in the UGA Laboratory for Speleothem Studies. He is a geomorphologist and paleoclimatologist whose research has included the study of karst terraines in Canada, the U.S., Egypt, southern Africa, and China.

    Dr. Bruce Railsback, the other principal researcher in the UGA Laboratory for Speleothem Studies, is a carbonate petrologist whose research began in the diagenesis of limestones. His work has focused on limestones ranging in age from Ordovician to Quaternary, as well as on a variety of speleothems. His interests in speleothems include the recognition of annual or other layers, the distinction between diagenetic and primary fabrics, and the identification and significance of detrital materials in speleothems.

     Past graduate students in this program included Jian (Richard) Chen, Margaret Rafter (now Margaret Rafter Millings), Ethan A. Goddard, James W. Webster, Shaw-Wen Sheen, James Baldini, and Joe T. Elkins. Hong-lin Xiao of the Department of Geography is presently working on a doctoral project.

    LSS Images:

       Lab - Lab 12 Pol S

       Lab - DMLP


    Images from
    related labs:

    Stable Isotope
       Lab Mass Specs

    Stable Isotope
       Lab Extraction Line


       Analysis Lab

    Rock Prep

    Other images:

    The Texas Toothpick
       in Carlsbad

    Ajohibe Cave,

Selected Publications:

Brook, George A., Keferl, Eugene P., and Nickmann, Rudy J., 1987, Paleoenvironmental data for N. W. Georgia, U.S.A., from fossils in cave speleothems: International Journal of Speleology, v. 16, p. 69-78.

Brook, George A., Burney, D.A., and Cowart, James B., 1990, Paleoenvironmental data for Ituri, Zaire, from sediments in Matupi Cave, Mt. Hoyo: Virginia Museum of Natural History Memoir 1, p. 49-70.

Brook, George A., Burney, D.A., and Cowart, James B., 1990, Desert paleoenvironmental data from cave speleothems with examples frm the Chihuahuan, Somail-Chalbi, and Kalahari deserts: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 76, p. 311-329.

Brook, G.A., Railsback, L.B., Cooke, J., Chen, J., and Culp, R.A., 1993, Annual growth layers in a stalagmite from Drotsky's Cave, Ngamiland: Relationship between growth layer thickness and precipitation: Botswana Notes and Records, v. 24, p. 151-163.

Railsback, L. Bruce, Brook, George A., Chen, Jian, Kalin, Robert, and Fleisher, Christopher J., 1994, Environmental controls on the petrology of a Late Holocene speleothem from Botswana with annual layers of aragonite and calcite: Journal of Sedimentary Research, v. A64, p. 147-155.

Brook, G.A., Railsback, L.B., Cooke, J., Chen, J., and Culp, R.A., 1995, Precipitation data from annual growth layers in speleothems: some preliminary results from Drotsky's Cave in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana: Studia Carsologica, v. 6, p. 65-80.

Rafter, Margaret A., and Railsback, L. Bruce, 1996, Analysis of two Republic of Madagascar speleothems as potential records of climate: Geological Society of America Abstracts w. Programs, v. 28 p. A307.

Brook, George A., Cowart, James B., Brandt, Steven A., and Scott, L., 1997, Quaternary climatic change in southern and eastern Africa during the last 300 ka: the evidence from caves in Somalia and the Transvaal region of South Africa: Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie, v. 108, p. 15-48.

Railsback, L. Bruce, Sheen, Shaw-Wen, Rafter, Margaret A., Brook, George A. and Kelloes, Catherine, 1997, Replacement of aragonite by aragonite in carbonate diagenesis: Criteria for its recognition in speleothems from Botswana and Madagascar: Speleochronos, No. 8, p. 3-11.

Brook, George A., Rafter, M.A., Railsback, L. Bruce, Sheen, Shaw-Wen, and Lundberg, Joyce, 1999, A high-resolution proxy record of rainfall and ENSO since A.D. 1550 from layering in stalagmites from Anjohibe Cave, Madagascar: The Holocene, v. 9, p. 695-705.

Railsback, L. Bruce, Brook, G.A., and Webster, J.W., 1999, Petrology and paleoenvironmental significance of detrital sand and silt in a stalagmite from Drotsky's Cave, Botswana: Physical Geography, v. 20, p. 331-347.

Brook, George A., and Railsback, L. Bruce, 2000, Climate and human activities in Southern Africa since AD 500: Evidence from Botswanan satagmites: Submitted to American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting.

Railsback, L. Bruce, 2000, An Atlas of Speleothem Microfabrics: .

Railsback, L. Bruce, Dabous, Adel A., Osmond, J.K., and Fleisher, C.J., 2002, Petrographic and geochemical screening of speleothems for U-series dating: an example from recrystallized speleothems from Wadi Sannur Cavern, Egypt: Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v. 64, p. 108-116.

Sheen, Shaw-wen, Brook, George A., Railsback, L. Bruce, and Thill, Jean-Claude, 2003, Stalagmite annual layer thickness as a proxy for ENSO and rainfall: Evidence from Drotsky's Cave, Botswana, in Desertification in the Third Millennium (eds. A.S. Alsharhan, W.W. Wood, A. Goudie, K.W. Glennie and E.M. Abdellatif), Balkema (in press).

Elkins, Joe T., and Railsback, L. Bruce, 2003, Caves, in Inscoe, John, ed., The New Georgia Encyclopedia: online in late 2003.

Brook, George A., Ellwood, Brooks B., Railsback, L. Bruce, and Cowart, J.B., 2006, A 164 ka record of environmental change in the American Southwest from a Carlsbad Cavern speleothem: Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, v. 237, p. 483-507.

Elkins, Joe T., and Railsback, L. Bruce, Evaluation of the effect of oven roasting at 340°C, bleach, 30% H2O2, and distilled/deionized water on the δ13C value of speleothem carbonate: in press with Journal of Cave and Karst Studies.

Theses and Dissertations:

Chen, Jian, 1992, Climate variations in Botswana over the later 600 years: Evidence from annual growth layers in a stalagmite from Drotsky's Cave, Ngamiland, Botswana: M.S. Thesis, University of Georgia, 125 p.

Sheen, Shaw-wen, 1996, Cyclic variations in southern African rainfall and water surplus, the Southern Oscillation, and annuals layers in a Botswana speleothem: M.S. Thesis, University of Georgia, 219 p.

Rafter, Margaret Ann,1997, Petrographic and geochemical analyses of two Republic of Madagascar speleothems as potential records of climate: M.S. Thesis, University of Georgia, 186 p.

Goddard, Ethan A., 1998, Three studies on the stable isotope record of cave speleothems: M.S. Thesis, University of Georgia, 136 p.

Baldini, James Ugo Lee, 1999, Morphologic and geochemical relationships between speleothems and drip water characteristics: Evidence from Brown's Folly Mine, Wiltshire, England: M.S. Thesis, University of Georgia, 128 p.

Webster, James William, 2000, Speleothem deposition within the Maya lowlands and late Holocene paleoclimatic implications: Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Georgia, 232 p.

Sheen, Shaw-wen, 2001, Theoretical and empirical comparison of water chemistry and karst denudation in conduit and diffuse aquifers, and implications for global karst models.

Elkins, Joe Travis, 2002, Use of δ13C values of soil organic matter in speleothems as a new proxy for paleovegetation and interpreting paleoclimate.

Contact Information:

George Brook:
Phone: 706-542-2322      Fax: 706-542-2388
U.S. Mail: Bruce Railsback, Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, 30602-2502 U.S.A.

Bruce Railsback:
Phone: 706-542-3453      Fax: 706-542-2425
U.S. Mail: Bruce Railsback, Department of Geology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, 30602-2501 U.S.A.



Other speleological links:
A French list of speleological links.
The Assocation of Polish Geomorphologists's list of speleological links.
The National Speleological Society.
The International Union of Speleology.
A karst glossary.
Dr. Andy Baker's research pages.
CERAK - Centre de Recherches et d'Etudes Appliquées au Karst.