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Burrow geometry and hazards: Case histories of GPR for mapping animal burrows 


 Sherrod, L., Sauck, W., Swiontek, J., Schlosser, K., Simpson, E. 2012. Burrow geometry and hazards: Case histories of GPR for mapping animal burrows. Proceedings of the Symposium on the Application of Geophysics to Engineering and Environmental Problems (SAGEEP 12), Tucson, AZ, (25 March 29 March 2012).


GGround Penetrating Radar has a vast range of applications: from geologic mapping to concrete inspection.  A recently emerging application is that of biological investigations through this non-invasive technique.  Geophysical mapping of features such as tree roots and turtle burrows have proved to be valuable techniques for the understanding of these subsurface systems.  We present three case histories of GPR investigations pertaining to animal burrows: cutter ants in Brazil, groundhogs in Michigan, and groundhogs in Pennsylvania.  Cutter ants (Atta spp.) in Amazonian Brazil are known to construct burrows of nearly the same dimensions as groundhogs as they excavate galleries for storage of leaves on which they culture fungi at depths up to 7m.  Burrows of cutter ants can be hazardous for heavy equipment and may also cause loss of circulation during mud rotary drilling.  GPR surveys were utilized to identify these burrows using the GSSI SIR 10 radar system with 100MHz and 500MHz antennae in 1994.  Groundhogs (Marmota monax), found throughout the United States, are another animal that can cause unseen hazards, particularly for equestrian facilities where a sudden collapse can cause severe injuries to horses and riders.  An indoor horse riding arena in Michigan experienced difficulties with these rodents in 2008.  GPR surveys were performed using a GSSI SIR 10A+ radar system with 500MHz antennae.  The surveys at this location clearly demonstrate the usefulness of geophysical methods in mapping these hazards.  Additional GPR surveys of groundhog burrows were performed in eastern Pennsylvania in 2011 to define mammalian burrow complexity as it relates to the rock record and paleontology.  Three separate burrows were surveyed using a GSSI SIR 3000 radar system with 400MHz and 900MHz antennae.  These surveys were combined with endoscopic investigations to confirm the interpretation of the GPR results which show the consistent nature of groundhog burrow geometry.

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Kurt Friehauf - June 2013