TSS News & Announcements

WNS Information: Current information on "White Nose Syndrome" and the US bat populations

Reddell Wins Awards

TSS is pleased to share the news about two awards conferred on James Reddell on 4 March 2017 at a banquet held in San Marcos, Texas, hosted by the Karst Waters Institute. The KWI gave him their 2016 Karst Award and invited him to give a talk on "The Cave Fauna of Texas: 1995-2015," which was warmly received by an audience of about 50 attendees. The TSS seized the opportunity to present Reddell with its "Outstanding Service Award," in recognition of over 50 years of service to Texas caves, caving, and cavers, starting with his role as one of the founding members of the TSS. A profound thank you, James, for all your service. (For a taste of the presentation given in San Marcos, download the wonderful powerpoint about cave fauna created by Reddell and Christopher Francke -- here. All rights reserved; may be used for educational purposes only.)

In memoriam: David McKenzie (14 December 2016)

The TSS Board has the unhappy task of notifying our readers about the death this week of director David McKenzie, a legend of Texas caving. Peter Sprouse wrote the following, for which we are all grateful.

From Peter Sprouse (15 December 2016)

I am very sad to report the passing from cancer of David McKenzie, author of the Walls cave mapping program. David worked continuously since the early 1970’s on cave mapping software, and his work benefited countless cavers around the world. He was a great personal friend to me, and was constantly assisting people with their cave cartography projects. He will be missed. David took steps to make sure that his programming code was preserved, and Andy Edwards has volunteered to lead a team to keep his software updated.

David began exploring caves with the University of Texas Speleological Society in the early 1960’s. This quickly developed into his primary focus, and as mathematics was his field of study, be began to work on computer programs for plotting cave survey data. Cave archives contain many finely drawn maps by David from Texas and Mexico. The most notable among these are from the many expeditions that he made along with James Reddell to the Yucatan Peninsula starting in the early 1970’s, to such places as the Grutas de Balankanche. David drove his Blazer across Mexico, exploring caves such as Sistema Purificación in Tamaulipas, which became the longest one known in Mexico. During that time, David had developed a computer program that he named Ellipse, which ran only on the mainframe computer at the University of Texas. This benefitted many cave exploration projects that were ongoing in Texas and Mexico. By the 1990’s he was hard at work on a personal computer version of his program, which he named Walls. This was the pinnacle of his life’s work, and has been of tremendous benefit to hundreds. For the past 20 years he has constantly maintained and improved Walls, never with any financial benefit whatsoever.

David long had an interest in supporting the Texas Speleological Survey, which maintains state cave data. In doing so, he saw the need to develop additional software to support their data gathering mission. So he created Wallsmap, a simple and effective GIS program for cavers. David put an enormous amount of his time into gathering and organizing Texas cave data using Wallsmap. David always made himself available to assist his user base in answering questions and solving problems. He worked nearly every day, serving the caving community, spending way too much time in front of a computer no doubt. We were so fortunate to have him with us, in so many ways.

The Board adds that David also wrote the program that allows people to search the bibliographic files for both Texas caves and the North American Biospeleology Bibliography. This extracts the complete bibliographic citations for any cave, author, or subject. He also wrote the program BioExport that allows production of species lists from a Word document containing cave records for any cave in Texas. This could easily be adapted for any area.

      David at his post, working away on cave software as always; photo by Peter Sprouse       A 1966 photo of David entering Sotano de la Tinaja near Ciudad Valles, Mexico. James Jasek photo.

50 Years of Texas Caving
by Carl Kunath. Available now!