COBRA Grotto History
Drs. Dave Thomas and Mark Schram of Lyon College take Ecology class students on the wild cave tour at Blanchard Spring Caverns. Dr. Thomas inquires about research opportunities in the Caverns, and is told that arrangements can be made under permit. Dr. Thomas joins the NSS.
Dr. Thomas applies for grant money (from the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium) and a Forest Service collection permit to do microbiological research in Blanchard Spring Caverns. Both are granted within two months. Lyon College student, Melissa Kuehl, joins the project.
Dr. Thomas and Ms. Kuehl begin working out research and exploration methods at nearby Blowing Cave in Cushman, AR. Dr. Thomas’ children, Rachael, Ian, Hannah and Sean start caving with their father. Additional Lyon College students (Diedra Dourth, Michael McQueen, and Megan Foll) join the caving trips. Ms. Kuehl and Mr. McQueen join the NSS. Dr. Thomas joins the Little Rock Grotto. LRG is the closest grotto to Batesville – over 200 miles and four hours, round trip.
Dr. Thomas – along with Dr. Han Chuan Ong, Ms. Kuehl and Mr. McQueen – receives additional grant money from the Arkansas Space Grant Consortium for cave microbiology research. Additional caves are added to the research project.
May - August 2008
Cave trips occur on at least a weekly basis. Twelve more Lyon College students and staff accompany the research group to various caves on research and recreational trips. Cave cleanup becomes a standard part of most trips. Some cavers inquire about starting our own grotto. Dr. Thomas makes initial contact with the NSS IO chairman, Keith Wheeland.
Dr. Thomas initiates the Facebook group, “Lyon College Underground” as a means to inform cavers about upcoming trips. In less than one year, the group has over 70 members. 10-15 members form a “core” group that does most of the caving.
For economic reasons, Drs. Thomas and Schram take the Ecology class students to the Ozark Underground Laboratory (Tumbling Creek Cave) instead of Blanchard Spring Caverns. Dr. Thomas establishes collaboration between his group at Lyon College and the OUL.
December 2008 - April 2009
Local newspaper coverage and word-of-mouth attract additional cavers to the informal caving group at Lyon College. Additional caves are opened to us as area cave owners become familiar with our research and cleaning efforts. The number of cavers in the “Lyon College Underground” continues to grow, including persons not associated with the college.
Dr. Thomas becomes the WNS Liason for the Little Rock Grotto. Local cavers inquire, again, about forming a grotto (this had been set aside for about a year). The cave microbiology grant is renewed for another year.
18 June 2009
The first grotto organization meeting is held at Lyon College. Eight people attend with another two pledged to join, but couldn’t attend the meeting. The members agree to model the new grotto’s constitution and by-laws after those of the Little Rock Grotto. A working name of “Batesville Area Grotto” is agreed upon, but will not be finalized until the next meeting. The new grotto will be affiliated with Lyon College, but will not be an official Lyon College organization. An Executive Committee of three persons is elected: Dave Thomas, President; Hira Herrington, Vice-President; Melissa Kuehl, Secretary/Treasurer. After the meeting, Dr. Thomas sends drafts of the history, constitution and bylaws to the NSS IO chair for constructive criticism.
25 June 2009
The membership approves the history, constitution and bylaws that incorporate suggestions made by the NSS IO chair. The membership debates on a large number of possible grotto names, and decides upon “C.O.B.R.A. Grotto” (Cavers of the Batesville Region of Arkansas Grotto) as the official name. The first official Grotto cave trip is to Bat Cave near Cord, Arkansas.
26 June 2009
Dr. Thomas sends the grotto application to the NSS IO Committee via e-mail and U.S. Postal Service.
3 July 2009
The COBRA Grotto of the NSS is officially chartered.
3 November 2009
The COBRA Grotto is recognized by the Lyon College Student Government Association (SGA) as an official Lyon College club. Dues-paying membership exceeds 25 members. Ten members are also NSS members.
19 February 2010
At the request of First Community Bank (which holds the Grotto account), the by-laws were amended to specifically authorize the Grotto to establish and use a bank account.
15 September 2011
The Grotto voted to change the fiscal year to more closely match the academic year, since most of the members are students and faculty. The new Grotto year starts in September and ends in August. Consequently, officers serve from October to September. This arrangement allows members who join in August or September to gain some knowledge about potential officers. The by-laws were amended to reflect these changes.
The membership voted to abolish grotto dues. Members who are inactive for more than two years may be dropped from the grotto.
COBRA Grotto membership stabilizes at approximately 50 members during the last few years. Approximately 20-25% of the members are also NSS members.