Why research at Naracoorte Caves?

The aim of research at Naracoorte Caves is to increase our knowledge and understanding of the natural and cultural values of the caves. This guides decisions about conservation of the caves and fossils, and also means that visitors always get the most up-to-date and relevant information during guided tours, community events and from on-site interpretation.

Through research, we can better understand the World Heritage values of the fossil deposits, such as:

  • the evolution and development of modern animal communities
  • environmental change over the last 500,000 years
  • the effects of the Pleistocene ice ages on animal populations and communities
  • the potential effects of future climate change on animal populations and communities
  • the biology of extinct species including Australia’s megafauna
  • timing of the extinction of Australia’s megafauna
  • the diversity of past animal and plant life in southern Australia.

We also learn more about:

  • the integrity of the world heritage values and early detection of threats and potential risks
  • population dynamics and biology of the critically endangered Southern Bent-winged Bat
  • the types of visitors to the Caves and their expectations when visiting a National Park and World Heritage site
  • best practice cave conservation methods.

Research planning

A Scientific Research Plan is currently being prepared to promote and encourage research at the Naracoorte Caves.

It will

  • identify key research directions and priorities
  • clarify the aims and mission of research at the site
  • set out expectations for research conduct and output.

The plan is being prepared by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, with input and advice from the Research Sub-group of the Naracoorte Interagency-Community Reference Group. The Research Sub-group comprises representatives from Flinders University, the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia.

Research management

To ensure that research activities do not negatively impact on the World Heritage values or other natural and cultural values of the Naracoorte Caves, research activities are managed through permitting and environmental assessment processes.

Some sites in the park have been set aside as ‘reference caves’ where no excavation is permitted. This will make sure that the fossils at that site are preserved in perpetuity. Access to Bat Cave is strictly controlled, especially during the breeding season of the Southern Bent-wing Bat (Miniopterus schreibersiibassani).

A research reference group provides advice to the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources on proposed research to ensure best practice in research activities, and to provide support to researchers with an interest in working at the site.

Guidelines regarding permits and processes for approval are currently being prepared. If you are interested in undertaking research at the Naracoorte Caves, please contact the Caves Manager on (08) 8762 3412.

Research quality

Due to the high standard of research and the significance of the Naracoorte Caves, much of the published research has been in notable journals and publications, leading to regular citations and references.

Many of the peer-reviewed papers were published in local journals, but several feature in some of the world’s top ranked journals for their discipline.

The paper by Roberts et al. (2001) on dating Australian megafauna drew heavily on samples from the Naracoorte Caves. Published in one of the two top ranking science journals, it has since been cited by 348 sources.

Several notable papers on the fossils and fauna from the Naracoorte Caves are published in the leading journals for their disciplines, such as Ecological Monographs, Quaternary Science Reviews, and Geology.