The Amy H Remley Foundation  

Final Report to the Southwest Florida Water Management District

Purchase Order number 08P00000559


In 2007, Emily Casey (a teacher of environmental science at the Withlacoochee Technical Institute (WTI)) approached the Withlacoochee Forestry Center (WFC) about the impact of vandalism at Dames Cave. Science literature dating from 1994, refers to the cave as Vandals Cave. Clearly, a long standing issue with vandalism was in need of attention.

Entrance to Dames Cave Vandalism evidence:
Dames Cave Entrance Trash at Dames Cave
source: Emily Casey source: Withlacoochee Forestry Center

Following consultation with Ann Tihansky, Hydrologist, Science Communications Department, U.S. Geological Survey – a person experienced with environmental education signs - a verbal agreement was reached between Emily Casey and Colleen Werner (WFC) to educate the adult public and try to reduce vandalism by visitors to that site using an informative sign and education.

Emily Casey approached the Amy H Remley Foundation to support the project with use of their web site facilities and underwrite the project which was to become the subject of a Community Education Grant providing for a limited expense reimbursement. The contract executed between the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) and the Foundation is indicated in the letter of support to the Foundation of 16 January, 2008 and the purchase order referred to above. (Norman Hopkins attended the briefing at the District on 2/19/2008). The project was registered on the Foundation's web server.

Both Emily Casey (WTI and the Foundation) and Colleen Werner (WFC) actively pursued their verbal agreement in good faith.

Purchase Order, Terms and Conditions

Items of the Terms and Conditions - Grants, were accepted as to: 1. A Binding contract. 2. Jurisdiction. 3. Contingent upon available funding. 4. Public access to documents. 5. Term of retention of Project documents and their examination by the District. [The Foundation web site was the principal information repository during the course of the project, including the drafting of the Final Report for submission to the District]. 6. Expenditure of grant funds. [Not applicable - reimbursement only]. 7. Not a District agency. 8. Indemnify District - non state actor. 9. Indemnify District - state actor [Not applicable]. 10. Failure to fulfill obligations without good cause and remedial grace period. [Purchase Order restricts to Final Report only]. 11. Restriction as to obligation waiver. 12. No assignment of rights. 13. No District relationship with any subcontractor. 14. Anti discrimination. 15. Recognition of District funding and construction waysigns [Not applicable]. 16. Attorney costs. 17. Convicted Vendor list. 18. Discriminatory Vendor list.

The aims of the Community Education Grant project, specified in the District's Purchase Order number 08P00000559, were to:

  1. Educate the adult public about the development, function and environmental impact of karst landscape features.
  2. Visit caves of the WFC where the adult public and adult students of the WTI would receive instruction on flora, fauna, geology, hydrology and purpose of the caves.
  3. Create informative sign(s) to educate visitors to Dames Cave, promote stewardship toward water resources and influence behavior to reduce vandalism.
  4. Use the Foundation's web site to educate the public at large.

To achieve these aims, it was agreed by the parties that adult members of the public and WTI students were to visit the caves and receive instruction from the WFC biologist – Colleen Werner. (Written briefs for this were prepared by Emily Casey in collaboration with Colleen Werner). In addition, adult students were to receive education during class work, undertake research and write reports. The Foundation web site – was to be the repository for project information accessible by the general public and enable communication between those working on the project from their separate locations.

An informative sign was to provide education to adult visitors to Dames Cave (DC) to explain the hydrology in karst terrain, geological formations, living inhabitants of caves, the functions of caves within pathways to the aquifer, and give guidance on basic safe caving and cautions to be observed. (Reference to geological cave formations was later withdrawn by the WFC for forestry management reasons). Guidance for the composition of a sign was given by USGS in a document provided by Ann Tihansky, and also derived from study of science literature addressing a similar target audience. For example, an USAID report on Environmental Education and Communication for Behavior Change - Its Role in Forest, Water, and Biodiversity Resource Management ..., reads: "Presentation to a target audience must be understandable, relevant, attractive and useful to that audience; speaking to the heart as well as the mind, and emphasizing the benefits of the environmental actions they are asking people to take."

Program of Work

The following program was pursued.

  1. Cave visits: Adult individuals of the local community visited the DC site and were there briefed by Colleen Werner before experiencing the caves first hand. A group of WTI adult students experienced the same.
  2. Foundation Web site: Shortly after the community visit to Dames Cave, attended by representatives of the Foundation, the Kings Bay Association, and other groups, a page was created with the cooperation of the WFC, and posted on the Foundation's website in the Education Section under, Aquifers – Caves. This page recorded the aims to be addressed and incorporated illustrations supplied by WFC. Note: As work to comply with the District's Purchase Order progressed, the page was used as repository for educative information accessible by those working on the project and the general public. Linkage to other web sites and to technical documentation on the Foundation's server was provided. The sign(s) developed were recorded on the Caves page as they evolved.
  3. In the Classroom: Led by their teacher, Emily Casey, the WTI students reported their observations about what they had seen and felt. Feedback from those of the community who had visited the caves was collated. A theme evolved (by Emily Casey) that the environmental health effects of groundwater was likened to the life blood in our veins. (A similar context likened forests to "the lungs of the planet"). Material to be included in the sign(s) was identified and arranged so as to influence the behavior of visitors towards a respect for the cave systems.
  4. WFC Biologist: Colleen Werner not only addressed the community adults but also mentored the students regarding the caves, their purpose and the need to look after them and their wildlife. Working papers were circulated for comment to the WFC and the District in March, 2009.
  5. Brochure: A tri-fold brochure, entitled "Water – Blood of the Earth", was produced and distributed with the assistance of the WFC and the District.
  6. Vandal Resistant Sign(s): Following a lead from USGS, Emily Casey selected and appointed a sub-contractor to manufacture vandal resistant signs.
  7. Community-designed Sign(s): Emily Casey collated information from her WTI adult students, members of the community, requirements of the WFC, and produced compositions for two signs. These conceptions, both printed and on CD Rom, were circulated to WFC and the District. Subsequently, comments identifying particular needs were incorporated in the compositions and submitted to the chosen sign manufacturer. Preliminary designs for each sign were received from the manufacturer.
  8. Vandalism Assessment: To provide a measure of vandalism both pre- and post- installation of any sign, the WFC introduced the concept of a Disturbance Index (DI) which was calibrated and used by the students to compute a numeric indicator of vandalism. Note 1: A measurement was taken of the DI at a cave by members of a community group during the summer of 2008. A further DI calculation was to be made immediately prior to installing a sign at DC, and another later in the summer of 2010, to assess how effective the sign had been, in conjunction with any other protective work performed by WFC. Note 2: The Disturbance Index procedure achieves the essential pre- and post-testing emphasized in the science literature.
  9. Extent of Vandalism: The full extent of the vandalism problem was only fully communicated during a sign siting visit arranged by the WFC on 10/29/2009. It was affirmed by those present at that meeting from the WFC that only staff of WFC could be permitted to erect a sign on DOF property. A more robust and expensive encasement mounting design was deemed essential. and subsequently selected by WFC. The additional expense of producing two signs could not be accommodated within the prescribed budget. The Foundation accordingly produced a design for a single sign using material from the two signs which had been circulated to WFC and the District. and processed by the chosen manufacturer. Note 1: Written communications from the WFC on 23 October, 2009, and 26 October, 2009, specified instructions for supply of the completed sign to the WFC. Note 2: The encasement for the sign was selected and approved by the WFC and scheduled into production on 14 November, 2009. Note 3: The WFC applauded the work of the WTI students in a March, 2009 e-mail. Note 4: Reported here for information and not investigated by the Foundation as part of this project, on December 27th, 2009, a local resident related how he and friends regularly explored and played in the cave system twenty six years previously, remarking that, "It never entered our heads to vandalize in any way. These were our caves." Note 5: Also reported here for information, and not investigated as part of this program of work, it was subsequently related by a local resident that the passage of heavily loaded Euclid vehicles along a nearby track most probably damaged the surface soil structure to allow rain events to wash extensive volumes of sediments into the Dames cave system, raising the floor levels by several feet and blocking passage ways.
  10. Single Educational Sign: The single sign composition was subsequently made "print ready" by the Foundation in Adobe Illustrator, a format used by the chosen sign manufacturer, and published to the Caves page on the Foundation's web site, It was scheduled into production on with the appointed sign manufacturer on 21 December, 2009, both to meet the project deadline, and ensure consistency with the encasement mounting already on order (9. above).
  11. District meeting: Information presented to a meeting on 3 December, 2009, determined that a sign concept originated by the District and WFC was not representative of the work of the community nor the guidelines of USGS or USAID and consequently was rejected by the Foundation.
  12. Web site content: Relevant information included on the Foundation website under the Education Section may be found on the following pages: Aquifers – Caves [Note: Cave sign, and Brinkmann/Reeder paper and link]; Aquifers – Geology – Karst; Aquifers – Citrus County [CAVA report] and, under the Current Issues section – Groundwater flows – a case study.
  13. Sign rejected by the WFC: At a meeting on January 12, 2010, at the WFC, Emily Casey was informed that the sign prepared by the Community was unacceptable because it was required to address children. (The project purchase order and the the consequent community effort specifically addressed adult visitors to Dames Cave). At that meeting unanimous endorsement to the encasement mounting for the sign was given by the WFC.
  14. Referral to USGS: Following discussions internal to the District, the Foundation was informed that the acceptance of the sign content by the WFC was considered to be an essential part of the terms of the said purchase order. The Foundation decided to approach the USGS (Ann Tihansky) who had been party to discussions that gave rise to the project application submitted to the District for the Community Education Grant. USGS informed the Foundation that the sign could be improved by adding technical educative content and the benefit of elements of professional graphic design, and made a generous offer to apply resources available to USGS to achieve that end. It was thought that such a process could equip the Foundation with an option to place such an alternative before the WFC to secure their acceptance of a sign to be installed at Dames Cave under the purchase order. Note 1: Accordingly, following an exchange of e-mails the Adobe Illustrator files used to fabricate the Community's sign were conveyed by FEDEX to USGS at St Petersburg, Florida. Note 2: No written specific items of criticism, nor any default letter under item 10 of the Purchase Order Terms and Conditions - Grants, have been received by the Foundation either from the WFC, or the District, with respect to sign produced to fulfill the terms of the Community Education Grant.
  15. May 5, 2010: It was concluded during a telephone call (Hopkins/Tihansky) that owing to the pressure of events it would not be possible for the USGS to provide a revised version of the sign as proposed in March, 2010.
Some WTI students who helped produce the sign.
WTI students who worked with the community
Shown with their teacher (front row left), Asst. Dir. WTI (back row right) and Dir. of the Foundation (back row left).


Educative Process: A comprehensive adult educative process has been applied as follows:

  • Conducted visits to the cave site by an expert mentor.
  • Trained teacher-directed student classroom work involving research and report writing. Samples of student work for the Ecologist Eye activity, water quality labs., water cycle model demonstration and cave brochure activity are attached to this report. The tests given to students were the pre/post type which demonstrated an average of 85% increase in knowledge.
  • Assessment, calibration, computation and evaluation of a Disturbance Index (DI) measure of vandalism. The first community application of the DI for Dames Cave was conducted in June 2008. The survey was partitioned into three parts, the entrance, the walls and the floor. With a value 1.0 indicative of the greatest disturbance, community members established the DI for the three areas ranged from 0.75 - 0.86. Pictures will be used to compare base line data to data obtained from future DI surveys.
  • An attractive informative on-site sign in a robust encasement mounting was developed, incorporating reference to the resources of geology, karst terrain, groundwater flows, and wild life. Sign language encouraged personal identification with and beneficial behavior towards the environment.
  • The Foundation's website offers on-going access to complementary environmental science information published on the Internet.

Informative sign: At the outset, USGS advised that a carefully designed sign complemented by education could help deter vandals and improve visitor safety. However, a sign sited within a forest today can only display direction to an external education source, (for example, the Foundation's web site). Advances in communication technology could provide access to such information while standing at the Dames Cave sign.
Wording used on the sign encourages empathy between a reader and the environment. Their lung function and blood flowing within their body (essential to the reader's life) are likened to the forest and water flows within the aquifer system (essential to life in natural systems). Negative language was avoided as tending to inspire bad behavior. Positive language was included, for example, to experience, enjoy and care for the environment, while simply indicating the harm done by the leaving of trash.

Community Education Grant: Involving members of the community and adult students in the program of work, in the wild - so to speak, was found to engage valuable levels of experience and different thought processes in the analysis of the problem and the remedy sought. Enthusiasm for and dedication to finding a solution was manifest in the course of the work.

Anecdotal observation (notes 4 and 5 to item 10 above): It was clear when comparing related personal experiences for 1994, with the Brinkmann/Reeder paper of that time that the silting up of connecting passages must have occurred since then. Most likely, rain events washed silt into the connecting passages after being loosened by heavy earth moving vehicles passing nearby. Thereby damaging the caves by neglect in addition to visitor vandalism.

Group visits: The Foundation applauds the initiative of group conducted visits to the caves as those undertaken by USGS (Ann Tihansky). It would be a short stretch for such visits to result in real improvements to the cave system.
Equipped with gloves, face masks and a suitable receptacle visitors could be encouraged to collect smaller trash items for deposit at a location remote from the cave sites, larger items could reported for WFC staff pick up. Restoration over time could perhaps also be attempted by encouraging supervised visitors to each remove a “spoonful of silt” from a prescribed area in a similar controlled process. Perhaps members of a cave club could be similarly encouraged.

Dames Cave Sign
source: Norman Hopkins
Dames Cave Sign
source: Norman Hopkins


Number of participants in the project, and volunteer hours contributed are:

  • Participating adult WTI students – 20
  • Participating adult Community members – 32
  • Student and community hours – 300
  • WTI (EC) hours – 200 (Plus)
  • Foundation other hours – 320(Plus)
  • Foundation research hours – 100 (Plus)

Reference materials

  1. District Purchase Order-copy.
  2. A document from Ann Tihansky (USGS), listing information to include and not to include in a sign.
  3. Plant resource partitioning report.
  4. Water testing procedures.
  5. Disturbance Index.
  6. Pre-/post- test Disturbance Index computations.
  7. Cave sign photo of students at WTI.
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Novemver 14, 2011
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