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The Project Guideline Page

A checklist of sorts for Project Directors
Some Guidelines for Running a Cave Exploration & Mapping Project
by Gill Ediger

General Philosophy

There is a general philosophy (subject to individual interpretation) that I think should be considered by all managers-which is, essentially, what the Projector Director is. Some of that philosophy includes things which may be presented as rules, but are not really intended to be hard and fast. Call them guidelines, if you will.

  • Try to operate the Project on a highly professional level. This basically means insisting that cavers follow established rules and procedures involving landowner relations, survey accuracy, filling out and turning in reports, completing maps, cleanup of the campground, etc.

  • Otherwise, try to establish absolutely as few rules as possible. Trivial rules and restrictions tend to debase the rules that have a real purpose. Cavers are a little wild and different, but not universally problematic. Rules established solely for the convenience of the Management should be strongly discouraged. There are better ways of dealing with a problem than making rules. Creative diversions often lead people (and even cavers) in the desired direction without them being knowledgeably forced to do something. Find an alternative to making rules.

  • Generally, be tolerant of things which don't negatively affect the Project or caving or most cavers' sensibilities. If somebody is being a problem, point it out to them gently, in private, and ask them to stop.

  • Peer pressure can often be used to turn an individual problem caver into a more useful one. Some friendly but well directed chiding and chastising by other cavers around a campfire will often do wonders to change one's behavior. It is OK to conspire to see that that happens.

  • Consider that every time you talk to a team, they may have someone who could still use some training. Take every opportunity to remind cavers of cave safety, cave conservation, and landowner relations. It can be done in a humorous manner.

  • A good Project Manager will encourage discussion of safety and conservation subjects and caving techniques while sitting around the campfire, especially when trainees are present. Discuss Project rules and guidelines from time to time.

  • As a manager, you should consider that all trainees are in your ultimate charge while on your project. Familiarize yourself with their base level skills and limitations and do not assign them to teams or activities that are very far beyond their abilities. A little stretching is OK. Training classes are usually under the eye of their own trainers, but sometimes the trainers will need some guidance on the peculiarities of a particular cave with which they may not be totally familiar. You may need to question them to see which cave may better suit their trainees needs.

  • Have assistants and use them and train them to take over when the time comes-which it almost always does.

A caving project requires caves and cavers and is intended to bring them together.

It should be assumed that we have either a known cave or caves that need exploring and mapping or that we have an area of known cave potential that has a few known caves and some certainty that there are others to be found.

The duties* of the Project Director are, in part:

To identify enough cave potential to justify inviting cavers to help. To see that the preliminary legwork is done to get the Project off to a good start. That includes:

  • determining the general scope of the Project,

  • making initial contacts with landowners and securing permission

  • identifying & posting any special rules and guidelines,

  • arranging for campgrounds,

  • selecting dates,

  • publicity,

  • preparing data sheets and/or maps to areas needing work,

  • providing releases as required.

To see that these ongoing duties are tended to at each Project event:

  • seeing that registration is tended to, releases signed, fees collected,

  • establishing an accountability system to insure that everyone who went into a cave came out,

  • providing Cave Report and Trip Report forms for all teams,

  • being prepared to make caving assignments,

  • being prepared to deal with changing situations,

  • having something for untrained cavers to do (send them with a trained crew),

  • being able to identify an untrained caver,

  • being friendly and helpful, but firm if necessary,

  • maintaining an extensive Lead List of caves reported by locals,

  • coordinating with the chief cartographer to assign survey names & numbers,

  • distributing and collecting all survey books/notes,

  • being determined to inform and correct cavers when they violate rules or procedures,

  • demanding that required reports be turned in before the caver leaves for home,

  • furnishing landowners with maps, photos, Thank You notes, Project T-shirts, caps, etc.,

  • furnishing TSS with copies of survey notes, maps, trip & cave reports, photos, Esc,

  • insuring that map drafting is completed,

  • seeing that reports and articles are written for The TEXAS CAVER,

  • seeing that someone else takes care of these jobs when Director is not present.

*Needless to say, it is the Director's job to see that these things get done or provided for, not necessarily the Director's responsibility to do them all personally. It is good and expected that managers will use their assistants to the benefit of the Project.

As the Project matures, some of these things will decrease and be self-perpetuating, requiring less attention. A few may require more attention. At any rate, they will tend to become more automatic and will happen without a lot of effort on the Director's part. Rest assured, however, that there will always be some new wrench thrown into the works that will require some hassle or creativity to deal with.


I would suggest that there are several ad hoc assistants that each Project would be better off with.

  • Co-Director-to help make decisions and watch after each other.

  • Chief Clerk-collect, maintain, and coordinate record keeping.

  • Chief Cartographer-to establish guidelines, solve discrepancies, coordinate map drafting

  • Geology Team-instigate, coordinate, and do geological studies

  • Biology Team-instigate, coordinate, and do biological studies

  • Photography Team-make archival photos of caves and cavers

  • Reporter-write regular reports for The TEXAS CAVER and other publications.