Find the UST with GPR

Bill Montgomery
New Jersey City University
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Field-based activity that uses GPR to find an underground storage tank (UST). Optionally, data provided with the activity enables lab or class use as well. Activity can be enhanced with use of GPS unit that takes points at the intersections of survey lines. USTs can produce pronounced anomalies that students of all proficiencies can see and grasp intuitively.

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This exercise addresses a common environmental problem with a professional geophysical approach. As such, it could enhance geophysics, geology, and/or environmental science courses. This activity was designed for a geophysics course, but it can also be used to integrate geophysics into a core course in geology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic conceptual understanding of "map" and "cross-sectional" view is desirable, if not essential. Basic grasp of electrical properties and influences upon signal propagation is also desirable, but is not essential.

How the activity is situated in the course

This project can serve well as a stand-alone exercise, but can also be easily integrated into a sequence of exercises that explore the different types of anomalies that different types of geophysical equipment detect. We can use the activity in environmental site assessment, for example, in conjunction with other geophysical techniques.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Identify a subsurface anomaly and map its extent.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Requires some analysis of data and some critical thinking in order to fully understand and appreciate why and how the anomaly is produced, as well as where the anomaly is located in the subsurface.

Other skills goals for this activity

Developing familiarity with the latest technology (if data is collected in the field) and working in groups with students of different proficiency levels could also be goals of this activity.

Description of the activity/assignment

Activity involves field data collection with a ground penetrating radar (GPR) unit to identify the location of an underground storage tank (UST). Data collection grid could also be collected and mapped with GPS unit. Actual field data are included with the exercise if field data collection is not an option. The activity gives students hands-on experience with data analysis / interpretation and mapping of subsurface storage tanks that are frequently associated with environmental contamination. This activity uses online and/or real-time data and uses geophysics to solve problems in other fields.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students map the location of the UST on an enclosed gridline base map, enabling the instructor to visually determine how well the student has performed the activity.

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