The TSS had its origins in the private cave files started in the 1950s by various Texas caving groups and individuals. In about 1950, Bob Hudson, a dedicated documenter of Texas caves, started the University of Texas Grotto cave files which were kept on large index cards and paper files. By the mid-1950s, Ken Baker, Bill Helmer, Dave Kyser, and others were contributing to the UTG files in an early commitment to maintaining the history of speleology and caves in the State of Texas.

Collecting information soon turned to publication and dissemination of information. Don Widener of the Dallas Speleological Society started the "Texas Cave Survey," publishing twelve reports on 14 counties in 1957-1959. As his source material, Widener drew on NSS Bulletin Ten: The Caves of Texas, published in 1948, and from the cave files of the UT Grotto, Abilene Grotto, Dallas Speleological Society, Corpus Christi Caving Club, St. Mary's University Grotto (San Antonio), Ozona Speleological Society, and other unaffiliated individuals. In 1960, after the demise of the Texas Cave Survey, William H. Russell started the Texas Cave Index to continue the effort to collect information on Texas caves and add to the existing database.

Texas Speleological Survey Logo by Jerry Fant

The Texas Speleological Survey was founded in 1960 by James R. Reddell, William H. Russell, Ruben (Bud) M. Frank, and A. Richard Smith to pick up where the Texas Cave Survey ended and expand its goals to support speleology (the study of caves) in Texas, to collect information on Texas caves, and to preserve and publish that information for cave explorers and interested scientists. The TSS's goals have expanded over the years to support cave exploration, science, conservation, education, and management, as well.

The TSS was reorganized to its present form in late 1994. A Board of Directors was appointed and articles and bylaws were adopted. In 1995, TSS was chartered as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation in Texas, and in the spring of 1996, was granted tax-exempt status.

The TSS has been affiliated with the Texas Natural Science Center (formerly the Texas Memorial Museum) at The University of Texas at Austin for many years through cave biologists James R. Reddell (Assistant Invertebrate Curator, now emeritus and consulting) and William R. Elliott (Research Fellow).

In 1995, the TSS files, which had previously been stored in private offices and homes, were moved into our current location in Building 18A on the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in North Austin. The first office manager was William R. Elliott, who became the cave biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation in January, 1998. He was followed in this role by Jim Kennedy. The office gave TSS expanded storage capacity for our extensive cave description files, literature files, topographic maps, cave map files, library, and photo collections. This space was then administered by the Texas Memorial Museum, and now (2014) by the Department of Integrative Biology at UT.

The TSS records currently contain over 15,000 Texas caves, sinkholes, and karst features, of which about 6400 are caves. The TSS maintains a digital database that is integrated with its own WALLSMAP software (a GIS application that is free to the public) that enables us to generate cave and area distribution maps and manage data, maps, photos, and other supporting documentation in a GIS environment.

Over the years, the TSS has published and continues to publish many reports on the caves and karst of Texas. Past editors include James R. Reddell, A. Richard Smith, Ronald G. Fieseler, William R. Elliott, Jim Kennedy, Jerry Atkinson, and Kevin Stafford; the current TSS editor is Jerry Atkinson,.

After the TSS was founded in 1960, Reddell and Russell published a 13-page checklist of 659 caves -- our first landmark publication. In 1994, the National Speleological Society Convention was held in Brackettville, Texas, and the guidebook for that convention was produced by the TSS. The Caves and Karst of Texas, edited by William R. Elliott and George Veni, is an important 342-page reference on the subject. As of 2013, the TSS has published 45 county reports, bulletins, monographs, and other special publications.

The TSS currently has three publication series, as well as many types of special publications. TSS Bulletins are reports on caves and karst regions in Texas, TSS Monographs are major works on Texas karst, including reformatted and quality-printed dissertations and theses, and the Karst Awareness and Education Series offer texts intended for a more general public. See the Publications Links above for what is available for purchase or free download. Some items have restricted sales because of legal and conservation issues associated with them. The TSS reserves the right not to provide publications or information if it could result in the degradation of cave or karst resources.

Prior Directors

For the complete list of present and prior directors and data managers, download the current directory: DOCX.