Questions for ‘Cool Jobs: Bringing caves’ dark secrets to light’

Caves, such as this Australian one, can be beautiful places. For scientists, they can also be natural laboratories full of opportunities for research.

Diego Delso/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

To accompany feature “Cool Jobs: Bringing caves’ dark secrets to light”


Before Reading: 

1.  What is a cave? Where can caves be found? Come up with a list of five things that might be found in caves.

2.  Some scientists who are interested in finding alien life in the universe look to caves on Earth. Why might that be?

During Reading:

1.  Why is the Cave of Crystals in Mexico an uncomfortable place to visit?

2.  What is a speleologist?

3.  How do scientists determine the age of a crystal found in a cave?

4. How long have the microbes that Boston found been living in the Cave of Crystals?

5.  What is climate?

6.  How do stalagmites form?

7.  What can stalagmites tell scientists about a region’s past climate?

8.  What are three features that make the tepui caves unusual?

9.  Why is it likely that most caves are undiscovered?

After Reading:

1.  Caves are one place that scientists look for organisms known as extremophiles — microbes that live in extremes of temperature, light or other conditions. List five other places on Earth that might be home to extremophiles.

2.  How might people identify the locations of caves that lie under the Earth but don’t have openings accessible from the surface?


1.  After 12,400 years, a crystal has grown to 2.3 meters wide. On average, how much did the diameter of this crystal grow each year? Show your work.