Case Histories: Using GPR to Map Burrows

Laura Sherrod - 2012

This project is a compilation of three separate studies of burrow systems using Ground Penetrating Radar.   Burrows of leaf cutter ants and groundhogs were imaged using this geophysical technique. 

The first of these studies was completed by Dr. William Sauck (Western Michigan University) in Aruana Brazil in 1994.  This survey was done on a brazil nut tree plantation using a GSSI SIR 10 GPR system with a monostatic 100MHz antenna and a 500MHz antenna.  The purpose of the GPR survey was to identify variations in soil properties which were causing trees in some sections of the plantation to have poor growth.  Additionally, several acres of trees had been destroyed by leaf cutter ants.  An example of the leaf-cutter ant burrow images is shown to the right.  Leaf cutter ant burrows, which can reach depths of up to 7m are a hazard to heavy equipment which can fall through their burrow complexes.


Comparison of data collected in 1994 with 100MHz and 500MHz antennae - cutter ants in Brazil.

Groundhog burrows surveyed at an indoor riding arena with a 500MHz antenna in 2008.

The second GPR investigation is of groundhogs in Southwestern Michigan.  An indoor riding arena in Caledonia, Michigan experienced some difficulties with groundhogs in 2008.  A horse carrying a rider had broken through one of the burrows and although neither horse nor rider were injured, the owners of the arena were concerned.  Dr. William Sauck mapped the ground hog burrow complex using a GSSI SIR 10A+ GPR system with a 500MHz antenna.  An example profile is shown to the left.

The third GPR investigation is of groundhogs in Eastern Pennsylvania in 2011.  Dr. Edward Simpson, the paleontologist at Kutztown Unviersity, was interested in mapping these burrow systems to define burrow complexity in a non-intrusive manner.  A GSSI SIR 3000 GPR system with 400MHz and 900MHz antennae was used to survey two locations.  The first location was on the campus of Kutztown University near a tree line.  The second location was at Rodale organic farm just outside of the borough of Kutztown.  The purpose of this investigation was to use modern burrowing mammals as a proxy for burrows in the rock record.

Jarred Swiontek, Kenneth Schlosser, Dr. Ed Simpson, and Dr. Laura Sherrod surveyed groundhog burrows in Eastern PA.

Three-dimensional image of the burrow complex at Rodale organic farm.
A tight line spacing of 0.25m for the 400MHz antenna and 0.1m for the 900MHz antenna provided high resolution data for the groundhog burrow surveys.  These data were used to make three dimensional images of the burrow complexes.  Additional images of this case history are shown in Mapping of Groundhog Burrows with GPR
  Paleontology and Geophysics Ground Penetrating Radar
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