forensics, journal, university

End of S1

Semester 1 is over. Goodbye, Surprise-4000-Word Assignment and 2000-Word Report on Planning A Project.

The plan I wrote basically involved driving a GPR over a disused cemetery where all the markers are missing (aka a Pioneer Park), then plug that data into computer software and create a rainbow “heat map” where all the old burials are.

You see, GPRs normally produce images called radargrams. Radargrams do not look dissimilar to grey TV static, and require a human interpreter to scrutinise patterns + see if they can detect changes in the masses of grey lines to find subsurface stuff. (Anyone who Google Image searches ‘GPR data’ will see examples of what I mean).

Image from Not far off from an actual GPR pic.

In contrast, below is an example of what a computer-modelled gravesite looks like (Minecraft anyone?):

3D plot of a real Cemetery in Nova Scotia, by Kelly et. al (2021)

Buried objects and people should become harder to miss when they are plotted intuitively like this. So this can be useful for forensic scientists too.

I borrowed the idea for this assignment, and that image, from this paper.

Just before I hit submit, I realised the marking rubric said the project had to span 4 weeks. With no good sense of how long archaeology projects take, I had written a lovely long Timeline that would have allowed project participants to dally around for 3 months getting materials together. Had to rewrite that section quick-ish.

Other things which have been happening:

• I found an old piano going second hand for $250, and have been noodling around on that.

• People at work know I’m enrolled in a certificate in Archaeology. I had only said that I had tagged along with researchers on a study when I took annual leave, but ex-students from the uni put 2+2 together. So it’s not really a secret now. Coworkers are pretty good about it. Only Corporate doesn’t know (yet)

• For the second time in my life, I have submitted an application to med school. This is an old dream. It took 15 minutes and was anticlimactic. Now I’m older and have learnt more things, I am okay with whatever the outcome is. We’ll see what happens.

Hope everyone is healthy, happy and well.


Kelly, T., M. Angel, D. O’Connor, C. Huff, L. Morris. G. and Wach 2021. A novel approach to 3D
modelling ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data – A case study of a cemetery and applications
for criminal investigation. Forensic Science International, (325):1-15.

Australia, journal, university

Ground Penetrating Radar

Here is a GPR, which stands for Ground Penetrating Radar:

This $300,000 baby can detect objects and graves, 3 metres in the earth below it, as it collects signatures from disturbances in the soil. It speaks to about 4 satellites in the sky and so its precision in locating artefacts on Earth is accurate down to the centimetre.

It also is (literally) a repurposed lawnmower.

My face really did look like that.

You drive it like a tractor in swathes through the field, and the technology maps that field, telling the archaeologist if there’s anything to investigate.

According to the scientist who recently acquired it on behalf of our university, there is only one GPR in the entire Southern Hemisphere.

Something really awesome that happened by pure chance is that my paired group was the first to to be stationed here, during the first rotation on the first day.

When our professor was done with briefing – “right, who wants to drive it?!” – the other girl in my group, who doesn’t drive a car, looked at me in alarm. I was already itching to clamber on, and so I did. I can now say I was literally the first student ever to operate the only GPR on this side of the planet*. Wooo!

This week I’ve been at my first archaeological field school, and will upload more about what we were researching over the next few posts. I just had to dedicate one post about what we did first on Day 1.

*I don’t need to impress anyone as this blog is essentially anonymous, but this is true, and I was chuffed.