Photogrammetry & Paleo Surveys

Photogrammetry & Paleo Surveys

Since my last blog post, I have spent most of my time in the office processing imagery collected over the past few years as part of the archeological site erosion monitoring project. This processing involves using photogrammetry software to stitch the images together, turning them into point clouds (essentially 3D models). I then use different software to calculate the elevation change between the models from different years to see where and how much erosion is happening.

I spent a few days in the field taking new imagery along the Colorado River, including photographing a site that hasn’t been monitored using photogrammetry yet. We can’t use a drone, so we mount a camera on a 30 foot tall tripod and take photos every few feet. It is surprisingly difficult to carry the tripod up and down steep sandy slopes, especially when gusts of wind come through! We joked that we were the cause of the erosion in these photos from scrambling around with the tripod. 

On one of my days in the field, I assisted with a survey of a paleontological site. This area is a proposed off-highway vehicle recreation area, and when the area was being assessed for the impact new recreation would have on archeological sites, they found a bunch of fossils! A national recreation area differs from a national park because recreation is the primary goal over preservation. This site is an interesting example of how resource management and recreation do indeed overlap.

Taking photos with the tripod to monitor erosion.
The walls of Antelope Canyon are striped with the layers of sediment that became the Navajo Sandstone.

I’ve also been exploring the local area outside of work. One weekend, I paddleboarded up Antelope Canyon and when the water stopped, I got out and hiked through the slot canyon. It was the first time I had been in a slot canyon! As a geologist, I couldn’t help thinking about how water flowed through the canyon, carving it out over thousands of years. The layers and marks on the canyon walls showed evidence of past sand dunes and floods that occurred here. I went with a friend who was there last year, and she didn’t recognize many parts of the canyon because the water level had risen so much. Everyone tells me this year is much cooler and wetter than last summer; it was well over 100 degrees at this point last year! This speaks to how the climate in the region directly affects the water levels of Lake Powell.

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