Ben Tobin joins KGS as karst hydrogeologist
When asked why he would leave a job at the Grand Canyon National Park to become a karst hydrogeologist at KGS, Ben Tobin says the answer is pretty simple. “This is the home of caves and karst in the U.S. It’s been my passion. I love working in those environments. I loved my time here before when I got my master’s degree at Western Kentucky University, and I was excited about the chance to come back.”
Tobin, originally from New England, attended the University of New Hampshire for his bachelor’s degree and became “obsessed with caves,” which brought him to Western to pursue that passion and complete a master’s degree. After finishing PhD work at Texas State University, he launched into a career that included work at the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as a hydrological technician in Wyoming, cave management at California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and hydrology and cave resource work at Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.
“A lot of my past experience has focused on understanding cave and karst resources,” Tobin says. “Those jobs focused on understanding how humans interact with the groundwater and what we can do to better protect that groundwater.” He began working at KGS June 1, and he will be doing much the same work in Kentucky. “In the Grand Canyon, everything is so dramatic and huge. But there’s just as much variety and challenge here on smaller and more subtle scales that I’m excited to delve into and understand.”
Tobin has been exploring and mapping caves for almost twenty years. “It’s something I do for research and fun all around the world. I have ongoing projects in Guatemala and China, and I’ve been mapping the deepest cave in the United States, in Montana. The part that I love is that by caving, exploring, and seeing what’s in these places, I get a better understanding of that connection between here and what’s below us.”
It comes as no surprise that Tobin enjoys “anything outdoors” for leisure, too, including hiking, water activities, running, and climbing. His 12-year-old son will start seventh grade this fall in Lexington, and his fiancé has moved to Lexington. She is finishing a PhD in wildlife biology at the University of Florida. “My fiancé and I met at the Grand Canyon because we were the only two people who wanted and needed to go to specific remote places at the canyon, and we couldn’t convince other people to go!”