Jason Fox, our resident music maestro, is an undergraduate at WKU studying Environmental Science and Music. A Kentucky native, Jason’s research interests include the environmental implications of arctic tourism and techniques for improving environmental communication within the arctic tourism industry. For his ongoing undergraduate thesis project, “The Voice of Iceland: Communication of Climate Science through Music Composition,” Jason recently completed a summer in Iceland investigating the development of tourism in remote communities, and he is currently undertaking work on a musical composition that portrays the environmental challenges associated with Icelandic tourism in order to evaluate the potential of music to communicate science-based concepts to audiences. When not composing, Jason spends spare time exploring the world on Google Earth while listening to his favorite movie scores or the symphonies of Gustav Mahler and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Email him at

Andrew Jones is an undergraduate student researcher in the Center. He comes to us from Louisville, KY. His primary research interest is water quality impacts in the Red River Gorge area of Eastern Kentucky. In his free time, Andrew enjoys rock climbing, traveling, and spending time with his wife. Oh, and then there’s time spent being a chicken keeper…he and his wife have 23 chickens which they keep for eggs.







Hali Steinmann is a graduate student from Gainesville, Georgia. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Ecology from The University of the South. Her primary research interests are the karst hydrology and geomorphology of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee and Alabama. She loves to bike, hike, cave, and swim with her trusty mutt, Roubidoux. She is in constant pursuit of the world's best chocolate chip cookie recipe. Contact her at:



Pat Kambesis was born and raised on the south side of Chicago but eventually escaped to be a speleologically nomadic existence in various places of the US.  She now calls Cave City, Kentucky her home (go figure). Kambesis earned a BS degree in Biology from the University of Illinois and a BS in Geology from Southern Illinois University.  She did her MSc graduate work at Western Kentucky University on contaminant source and transport in a Iowian karst groundwater basin. Her PhD work was completed at Mississippi State University on geological controls on coastal karst formation͟. She holds a graduate certificate in Geographical Information Systems and has earned GISProfessional status. Her current research interests include all aspects of coastal karst, geomorphology of karst regions, speleogenetic controls on cave morphology, hydrogeology of pseudokarst (lava tubes) and effects of condensation corrosion on cave passage development. In addition to the physical side of caves and karst, Kambesis also researchers methods in cave documentation,  cave rock art, strategic use of caves in military conflict, and evolution of cave survey and cartography and them cave map. At heart she is a cave bum who has parlayed her exploration passion into a profession. Contact info: 

Allison Quiroga was born and raised in Northern California, but has lived in many states throughout her high school years. Her most recent move was from Houston, TX to Kentucky. She is a first year graduate student, with research interests that include glacial psuedokarst, carbon cycling in glacial environments, and contaminant transport in glacial systems. Fun fact, as children, she and her twin sister were known for pranking their teachers. Though their parents wrote their names on their shoes so the teachers could tell them apart, she and her sister would switch one shoe every day before class to be mischievous. Contact Allison at

Leah Jackson hails from a variety of places, but most recently from the West Texas Oil Patch. She earned her undergraduate degree in geology at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Her current research involves hydrogeochemically characterizing epikarst processes in telogenetic karst systems within the Pennyroyal Sinkhole Plain in South-Central Kentucky (boy, that’s a mouth-full!). Before pursuing her graduate degree at WKU, Leah published a women’s fiction novel called Sweetwater Farm. She hopes one day to be an instructor for clean water living and climate change mitigation tactics via the development and implementation of education and practicality programs through the PeaceCorps. Contact her at


Rachel Kaiser is a geoscience graduate student from Kenton County located in Northern Kentucky. She is currently participating in field work pertaining to karst research and is interested in groundwater resources associated with karst landscapes. In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors to go hiking and kayaking, but mostly spending the day fishing at the lake. Contact her at:

Caleb Koostra is an undergraduate senior working for the Center. He is also currently researching paleoclimate reconstruction through cave deposits and advanced analytical techniques. Caleb is our resident ‘bad boy.’ Did you know that his hands are registered as lethal weapons? Nonetheless, Caleb has big dreams and is ready to continue his path in the geosciences. Contact him at

Ethan Givan is the Lab Manager and micro-analyst at HydroAnalytical, the Center’s commercial water analysis lab. He is originally from Eastview, KY in Hardin County. Ethan received both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Health with concentrations in Environmental Health at WKU. Water quality and public health are at the center of his research interests; in fact, he is involved with research about varying topics, including hazardous material commodity flow to produce safety and irrigation water quality policy. In his free time he enjoys outdoor activities such as fishing, hunting, and helping his parents on their farm.E-mail: Office: 270-745-8705



Mercedes is from Cave City, Kentucky. She graduated Western Kentucky University with a major in Advertising and minor Graphic Design in 2016. Her concentration is in User Experience Design. She enjoys hiking, watching 90's shows, and being a dog mom. Mercedes is the Graphic and Web Designer for CHNGES. She is also employed by Martin Management as the Marketing Coordinator. She hopes to move out west, find a group of friends like on Friends, and work in Advertising in the near future.

Contact her at 







Keith Semler, who hails from Berea, Kentucky, is a first-year graduate student with CHNGES. His master thesis research will analyze karst management policies and practices in protected areas.  Keith loves backcountry camping and playing in the Kentucky foothills. His dream job is anything that allows him to protect the National Park System for this and future generations to enjoy.


Hunter is an undergraduate senior at WKU, majoring in Geography and Environmental Studies. In the Center, Hunter assists with data collection in the field and data processing back in the lab. He enjoys traveling and discovering how other countries and ethnic groups handle and adapt to environmental challenges. 





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Brita Austin comes from a combination of places in Kentucky and Missouri. She is a second year graduate student studying GIS and Sustainability. Specifically, her thesis research focuses on investigating the Influence of using ESRI story map applications to visualize community sustainability and increase participation in sustainability-related activities. She is known for possibly being able to recite the world’s fastest peter piper tongue twister.

Contact Brita at   

Dr. Leslie A. North is the Associate Director for Education and Outreach at CHNGES. In 2011, she earned her PhD in Geography and Environmental Science and Policy from the University of South Florida. Her research and teaching interests include karst environments, water resources, climate change communication, informal science education, eye-tracking, and sustainability. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors, soaking up a good spa, spending time with her husband, shoe shopping, and being mom to her four Chihuahuas. She is a true native Floridian, representing the 6th generation born and raised in the state! Of course, with those roots, she lives for Disney, a good beach or spring, and a fresh orange! Contact her at or (270) 745-5982.




Dr. Polk is the Director of CHNGES and humble servant of many a grad student and staff member within the Center. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of South Florida and is often found underground, on a glacier, or in some remote country working to live the academic dream. His research includes karst environments, climate change, water resources, isotope geochemistry, and environmental geoscience issues. Dr. Polk enjoys traveling, caving, and photography and aspires to someday open the first sustainable auto repair center called the Truck Doctor actually owned and operated by a Dr. (of sorts)! He can be reached at or (270)-745-5015.  




Stacy grew up in Albany, Kentucky. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from WKU in 2003 and immediately afterward began working for the USDA-Agricultural Research Service as a Biological Scientist Technician. He currently is a non-traditional graduate student in the Department of Geology and Geography, researching biochar amended soil for dissolved greenhouse gas mitigation in karst groundwater systems. Stacy enjoys spending time with his with Rachel and two sons, Levi and Asa whom love to play “Transformers” with dad as Megatron. In his spare time, Stacy likes to race trucks. He is currently building a truck to be raced on a road course and autocross track.


Kegan is the lead wet chemist and field analyst (jack of all trades, master of none!), for CHNGES and the HydroAnalytical Lab. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Cincinnati and a Master’s in Geoscience from Western Kentucky University. His thesis investigated inorganic carbon cycling along the Green River in south-central Kentucky. Since finishing his schooling, he remained at WKU to become part of the CHNGES team. His research passions revolve around the applications of low temperature stable isotope systems to climate change, karst geochemistry, water resources, and water quality. In his spare time, Kegan enjoys taking drives through the country with classic rock and roll blaring, getting muddy in caves, and exploring the world through overlanding. Contact him at









Chelsea Ballard is from Horse Cave, KY and is an undergraduate student studying Karst Geoscience. She grew up in a karst area which led her to WKU to study karst environments. During her time in the Center, she has completed two research projects (with funding) on carbon transport and tracing in karst environments. Chelsea also interns at Mammoth Cave National Park Science and Resources Management Division where she works closely with scientists under Mammoth Cave National Park and the Cumberland Piedmont Monitoring Network. She also has a parrot named Mango. Her hobbies include caving, surveying and mapping caves, hiking, kayaking and researching on karst topics. Her bedtime: What college student has time for sleep? Reach Chelsea at






Elizabeth “EB” Willenbrink hails from Louisville, KY. As a first year graduate student, her research interests include agriculture, karst, and communication. When she isn’t running or working, EB is obsessing over Beyoncé, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. EB is determined to become a strong leading woman in her field!



Anisha Tuladhar is a second year graduate student studying Geosciences. Her research interests include glaciers, hydrogeochemistry, climate change, and water quality. She is studying Icelandic glaciers for her Master's thesis to better understand arctic watersheds by a comparative hydrogeochemical study of the melt water system. Her dream job is to travel around the world studying glacial melt water, drinking water, and solving water quality problems.

Email her at

Gray P'Pool is the Office Associate for CHNGES. Yep, she’s the one that drives the day-to- day operations of the Center. She has been with CHNGES for the past four years. In her spare time, she enjoys working in her garden, investigating genealogy, and traveling. .Gray is our resident animal and nature lover.  Her favorite animals are dogs, horses, moose, foxes, squirrels, and birds, but those default to whatever animal(s) is in front of her at the time! Email Gray at

Jadam is a graduate student from Albany, Kentucky. He currently serves as the data team lead for CHNGES. His thesis research focuses on flood modeling in karst environments. If you are looking for honey, Jadam is your guy. This year, he became a proud father to 450,000 bees!  In the future, Jadam hopes to use his degree in a practical setting. Contact him at

James “Tinman” Graham comes from Louisville, KY. He is a first-year graduate student studying GIS, karst disturbance, and management. An avid feline enthusiast, Tinman is always happy to tell you about his world-famous munchkin cat. In the future, Tinman hopes to travel the world and go in all of the caves.  

Contact him at:




Jason “Jay” Lively is from Wilbraham, Massachusetts, completing his 3rd and final semester of graduate school. His research is focused on understanding the mechanisms behind ion exchange and selectivity in micro- and nano-porous silicate materials. He is also interested in finding ways that these materials can be applied in industry, medicine and in environmental remediation. Fun fact, Jay has a love-hate relationship with coffee. It’s his life force, but his wallet hates it…