Publication Date

Summer 2020

Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Jason Polk (Director), Pat Kambesis, Fred Siewers, and James Smith

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Sierra Mazateca, Mexico is home to Sistema Huautla, the deepest cave in the Western hemisphere with 1,560 meters of depth and 90 kilometers of passage, including 26 entrances distributed in a high-relief, karstified terrain, within the Sistema Huautla Karst Groundwater Basin. Exploration of the cave has generated research questions about its evolution and geomorphology given the different vadose and phreatic zones impacted by tectonic and incision processes. Dye traces during this study of Cueva de La Peña Colorada confirmed it is a fossil resurgence of the cave system. An additional cave, Cueva Elysium, was connected hydrologically in 2019, expanding the basin and recharge area for the cave system. Four springs were monitored at high-resolution along the Rio Santo Doming for water level, temperature, and specific conductivity in 2019. The dye trace results indicate connection between the springs and that primary dissolution likely occurs at the water table and phreatic zone, due to the extreme verticality of the cave system, while flood responses are rapid and short-lived, despite seasonal storms. Results from this study also help aid in understanding and managing water resources in the region, further exploration of the cave system and potential connections, and the future evolution of Sistema Huautla under a changing climate as exploration continues.


Geography | Geology | Hydrology