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Maria Perez

Associate Professor of Geography; Director of Undergraduate Studies

Profiles and Info

View CV for Maria Perez

Categorized As

Role: Leadership,
Focus or Research Area: Geography,

“It’s easy to contaminate your drinking water if you don’t understand the connection between the surface and the underground. The impacts of pollution and resource extraction — not only environmental but also cultural and ecological — are in many places devastating.”

Cultural Anthropology, Speleology, "caving culturally"

I am an Associate Professor 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. In other words, 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 certain places over others, beyond dollars and cents?); and 
  • politics (Who has access to or owns what, and how far underground? 
  • Who has the means and power to represent the hidden dimensions of the Earth and to what effect?). 
Really, these questions are relevant well beyond caves, karst, and even bunkers, another site of research!

Note: I am on a research leave (sabbatical) during the Fall 2023 term (August 14 - December 15, 2023). WVU undergraduates, for advising or mentoring questions, please contact our Student Success Coordinator, Tara Robbins, at Unless you are inquiring about my call for a Graduate Research Assistant to join my collaborative National Science Foundation-funded project in Puerto Rico, I am not taking new graduate students and may not respond to queries at this time. Due to research activities involving travel and writing, I may not check email daily. If you need to contact me urgently and I don't respond after a few days, please call the Department of Geology and Geography at 304-293-5606. I appreciate your patience as I try to make the most of this privileged time of focused research. I resume regular academic duties on January 5, 2024.

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