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Imaging System Designed by Grasmueck Uncovers Secret Life of Gopher Tortoise

MIAMI — Biologists used a one of a kind 3D-imaging system designed by Dr. Mark Grasmueck, associate professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, to investigate the burrows of the slow-footed Gopher Tortoise. The 3D Ground Penetrating Radar system was originally developed for imaging and mapping of shallow soil and rock formations in geological, hydrological and archeological studies.

The new imaging system allows scientists to non-invasively record the details of tunnels burrowed by this threatened species of reptile which can be nearly 70 feet long and more than 20 feet deep. The Tortoise’s burrows are cohabitated by many other life forms such as snakes, lizards, mammals, and insects. The 3D scans have uncovered that Tortoise burrows are “corkscrew-shaped” structures within an elaborate underground network of smaller side tunnels, remnants of abandoned tunnels and tree roots.

The results of the Gopher Tortoise burrow study were published in the journal Geomorphology. For a short summary article you can read the National Wildlife Federation’s article here.

The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu.

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dr. mark grasmueck •  tortoise •  ground penetrating rader •  ground penetrating radar •