COPLAC 2014 URC Conference Posters

Three Mansfield University Geoscience undergraduate students presented their research at the COPLAC Northeast Regional Undergraduate Research Conference this past weekend at Keene State College in Keene, NH. I was the co-adviser of two of these projects, along with my colleague Lee Stocks.

“Geophysical and Geospatial Mapping of Tioga County, PA Cemeteries”

Poster by Nathan Harpster, Colleen Meringer and Christopher Oliver-Nez; Presented by Nathan Harpster

This was the first presentation of our Mapping Tioga County Cemeteries project.


In recent years, ground penetrating radar (GPR) has gained acceptance in a variety of fields, including geology, engineering, and archaeology, as a method for capturing high-resolution imagery of subsurface objects. High-frequency electromagnetic pulses are emitted from an antenna to probe the Earth and produce a two-dimensional radargram that allows interpretation of subsurface objects. Multiple survey lines are stitched together to produce a 3-dimensional view for analyses. The appeal of GPR is that it provides a non-invasive geophysical method for subsurface exploration that is preferable to more costly excavation and drilling techniques. Because EM wave velocities change drastically when encountering void spaces and disturbed soils, GPR is particularly suited for grave detection and inventory surveys of old cemeteries and archaeological digs. Many of these sites have crumbling headstones or older graves with unmarked locations. Buried objects and point features produce a reflection hyperbola (inverted U) on the radargram, while bedrock contacts and soil density changes show up as planar reflectors. Void spaces manifest as a “ringing” reflection. These geophysical indicators of buried objects in the radargram offer potential in locating lost and historical graves without destructive digging, excavation, or drilling. This research attempts to create a database of all 271 cemeteries in Tioga County, geolocating all graves with headstones via GPS technology, mapping aerial extent of the cemetery with unmanned drones, and using GPR to locate unmarked graves. This data is invaluable for genealogical and planning purposes, and can be utilized by public, private, and municipal sectors.

Poster (click for a larger version):


“Mapping Carolina Bays for Morphometric Analysis”

Poster by Jesse Olson and Scott Morgan;
Presented by Jesse Olson

This was the first presentation of our Carolina Bays project.

Abstract: Carolina Bays are minor geomorphic surface features, which are generally elliptical with long-axes trending in a northwest-southeast direction, found in the Coastal Plains physiographic region of the Atlantic from New Jersey to Florida. They are mostly depressed only a few feet with raised sand rims on the southeast border. The vast number found in the Carolinas has led to the extensive use of the name, while Bays comes from the dominant vegetation. Currently, multiple genesis theories attempt to explain the origin of these sinkhole-like features, ranging from extraterrestrial meteor collisions to wind-wave action. Similar orientations, varying sizes, ages, soils, vegetation and geology provide impetus for further research. Sizes range from several thousand square meters to several square kilometers and can cover 50-60% of land surface with overlapping and truncation common. Optically Stimulated Luminescence (OSL) age-dating methods in the region have shown several periods of bay genesis during multiple events since the beginning of the Pleistocene, about 100,000 years ago. This is verified morphologically by the presence of several eolian sand rims of progressively younger ages within a single bay. Missing from the literature is a concise method for mapping these features using modern high-resolution datasets in a spatial framework. In this study a geomorphic and spatial analysis is performed using multiple layers to explore the best data and method for mapping Carolina Bays. Derived from this case study is a database containing quantity, distribution, area, length, width, ellipticity, and orientation of mapped Carolina Bays for spatial and morphometric exploration.

Poster (click for a larger version):

Author: Andrew Shears

Andrew Shears is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Mansfield University in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. His research interests lie at an intersection of the human-environmental nexus, and includes branches of mapping, technological, memorialization and urban geographies. He lives in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania with his wife Amy, a professional photographer.