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Maria Perez


I am an Associate Professor here in the Geography Program at West Virginia University’s Department of Geology and Geography. A cultural anthropologist by training, I investigate the cultural and historical context of scientific practice. More specifically, I approach science as a cultural activity. Speleology (cave science and exploration) serves as a case study with which I examine a range of topics such as identity (Who are we? What brings us together?), place and emotion (How do places become meaningful? Why is it that we come to love some places more than others?), value (How do we come to value, beyond economic considerations, places that are hidden or not part of our everyday livelihoods?). Really, these questions are relevant well beyond caves, karst, and even bunkers, another site of research!

Find out more on my research website 

I began my research with speleologists in Venezuela, my country of origin. I have since done work in Cuba, the continental US, and now I am developing a project in Puerto Rico. The Cuba research is actually international in scope: the project, “Field Studies of Karst Environments: A Case Study of International Scientific Collaborations and Network Building,” examines the history and present activity of collaborations and networking between US and Cuban speleologists. This three-year research project was funded by the National Science Foundation. A second ongoing project, in collaboration with John Wilson, is titled “Caver Villages: Community, Sense of Place, and Conservation of the Underground.” I am now developing a project on caver contributions to Caribbean cave archaeology and conservation with Dr. Aixa Alemán-Díaz. Stay tuned for other research updates.

At WVU, I teach Geog 102 - World Regions, Geo 245 - Geography of Latin America, and Geog 303 - Cultural Geography. I also teach a Cultural Theory graduate seminar and welcome inquiries from interested Masters and Ph.D. students although I do not forsee taking on new students until 2024.