The strength and vitality of the National Speleological Society (NSS) lies in its members. These cavers dedicate tens of thousands of hours a year assisting the Society at all levels to further its goals, develop its programs, manage its business and properties, and accomplish specific projects.
The National Speleological Society (NSS) is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to the scientific study of caves and karst; protecting caves and their natural contents through conservation, ownership, stewardship, and public education; and promoting responsible cave exploration and fellowship
among those interested in caves.
The Society relies on dedicated volunteers for its 12 directors, 5 officers, publication editors, 120+ standing committees, and numerous subcommittees. In addition, volunteers lead NSS Activities, manage the NSS Nature Preserves and organize the annual NSS Conventions. The reporting structure of the Society and the distribution of committees/commissions can be seen on the Organization Structure page.
The greatest accomplishments in caving and conservation are often achieved through the Society's Internal Organization (IO) structure. Members work together in NSS grottos (i.e, chapters), regions, surveys, and sections to develop ideas and pursue projects in the areas of speleology, as well as cave conservation, management, preservation, restoration, exploration, surveying, rescue, equipment, techniques, and education. Each IO functions within NSS guidelines, but independently of the Society.
The NSS has only two full-time and two part-time employees, who work in its Huntsville headquarters office, bookstore, and library.
National Speleological Society
2813 Cave Avenue
Huntsville, AL 35810-4431
Complete List of NSS Organizational Contacts
NSS Operations Manager
The NSS Board of Governors (BoG), consisting of a 12-member Directorate and 5-member Executive Committee, conducts and supervises all business of the Society. The Acts of the Board and other directives, under which the NSS is governed and the Board operates, are maintained in the Board of Governors Manual, available to members on the Members Page. The Board of Governors meets three times a year, including a summer meeting during the NSS Convention. The other two meetings are hosted by grottos in various parts of the country in the fall and spring, providing Board members the opportunity to learn about local activities and discuss issues with cavers throughout the country. The variety of venues is important in encouraging as many NSS members as possible to attend and participate in the Board meetings. The Nominating Committee obtains candidates for the director elections and the Executive Search Committee locates officer candidates.
The 12 directors of the Society form the Directorate. Directors are elected by the NSS membership in the spring of each year for three-year terms that begin at the summer Board meeting. After two terms, a director must wait a year before being eligible for re-election. Terms are staggered so that four director positions are open each year. The directors are responsible for establishing overall goals, strategies, and policies of the Society, reviewing and enacting the budget, and electing the five officers. The directors elect a chairman of the directorate at their summer meeting.
The Executive Committee is composed of the officers of the Society: President, Administrative Vice President, Executive Vice President, Operations Vice President, and Secretary-Treasurer. The Directorate elects officers to one-year terms with no term limit. Elected at the fall Board meeting, the Secretary-Treasurer assumes office at the spring meeting. The President is elected at the spring Board meeting for a term that begins at the summer meeting. The three other officers are elected during the closed session of the Directorate, during the summer Board meeting, and begin serving immediately. Each officer is responsible for leading a department consisting of a number of NSS committees and managing the departmental budget. The officers manage the Society day-to-day, based on the policies, priorities, goals, and directives established by the Board of Governors. They work with, guide, and support the committees and other operations within their departments, helping them effectively pursue projects and carry out their responsibilities. Each officer is responsible directly to the Board. The Executive Committee's responsibilities include drafting the NSS operating and capital budgets for Board approval.
Committees/Commissions exist as entities within the Society to aid in the administrative and operational aspects of the Society.
The distribution of committees/commissions can be seen on the Organization Structure page. Contact
information for each committee is on the Complete List of NSS Organizational Contacts.
Official Society Committees/Commissions with their own web pages include:
Certain activities by groups of Society members that promote the purposes of the Society may be designated as official Society functions. They are not Internal Organizations of the Society by this designation. They are known collectively as "NSS Activities." More information about Activities can be found in the Definitions and Policies for Society Activities.
Cave Conservancies & Conservation Task Forces
Organizations that own, lease, and manage caves may choose to be affiliated with the Society as NSS Conservancies. A Conservation Task Force (CTF) is a group of Society members or an existing organization formed specifically to investigate and resolve a certain cave and karst conservation problem. These organizations agree to the purposes of the Society and are overseen, respectively, by the Cave Conservancies and CTF Committees in the department of the Administrative VP.
- Projects & Expeditions
Projects and expeditions are self-described organizations within the Society that operate with autonomy from the Society leadership. A group of members or an existing Internal Organization of the Society may be designated a Project of the National Speleological Society if its scientific, technical, research, project, or fundraising goals would be advanced by such a designation. Information about obtaining status as a Project or an Expedition is available by contacting the Committee Chair on the Research Advisory Committee page.
IO's are chartered by the Internal Organizations Committee and include Grottos, Regions, Sections, and Surveys. Affinity Groups are also chartered by and report to the IO Committee. More information about IO's can be found on the Web pages of the Internal Organizations Committee and in the Policy for Internal Organizations.
Nearly 200 local chapters, or grottos, located around the country, represent the bulk of the internal organizations of the Society. They usually conduct regular meetings and serve to bring cavers together within their general areas and coordinate activities. Many grottos publish a newsletter as a regular part of their programs.
Frequently, a group of grottos within a general geographic area will unite in a form of loose association called a region or regional association. Individuals within this geographical area who are not associated with any grotto may also belong to the region.
Society sections provide a framework to bring together cavers with similar specialized interests. While a few, such as the Cave Diving Section, may require specialized skills for active membership, subscriptions to a section publication are available to those without that skill but with an interest.
In almost every state containing a number of caves there is a group of Society cavers actively maintaining data on the caves and pursuing further exploration. Only a few of these have asked for Society charters as Internal Organizations; others are recognized NSS Study Groups and are independent.
Affinity Groups are not considered Internal Organizations of the Society, but are overseen by the IO Committee and, so, are listed here. Affinity Groups must have at least ten Society members, who will foster the Society goal of fellowship among those interested in caves, but, unlike sections, with common interests of their members not directly related to speleology.
What Can the NSS Do For Your Internal Organization?
The NSS is a member of the Union Internationale de Spéléologie (International Union of Speleology).
The NSS is affiliated with many other like-minded organizations.
If you have questions, comments, or suggestions about the NSS Organizations pages,
please E-mail: Gary Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org