Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences

Date of Last Revision

2021-09-14 18:25:26



Honors Course

3100 499

Number of Credits


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

Date of Expected Graduation

Spring 2021


Caves are generally formed by the erosion and/or dissolution of rock and its subsequent removal by water. Iron ore caves (IOCs) form despite being hosted by relatively insoluble and weathering-resistant rock. Due to the discovery of a microbial community behind the walls of these caves, it was hypothesized that these bacteria could be responsible for speleogenesis. Iron ore exists in an oxidized (Fe(III)) state, but reduced (Fe(II)) form is soluble. It was further reasoned that the bacteria might be able to reduce Fe(III) through direct metabolic activity, which uses iron as an electron acceptor. Here we show that cave microorganisms appear to reduce Fe(III) to a greater degree than a known iron reducer, Shewanella oneidensis MR-1. The results demonstrate that cave formation could be due to microbial activity which provides an additional model for cave formation.

Research Sponsor

Dr. John Senko

First Reader

Dr. Hazel Barton

Second Reader

Dr. Robert J. Duff

Honors Faculty Advisor

Dr. Brian Bagatto



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