USM professor, students conduct the examination of the historic Louisiana cemetery – Orange Leader


By: David Tisdale

A geography professor at the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) Gulf Park in Long Beach and six of his students are engaged in a project to collect information on a historic Louisiana city cemetery, using the latest technology with geographic information systems (GIS) and ground penetration radar (GPR).

Dr David Holt, along with undergraduates Candice Pellier and Angela Slawson, and graduate students Lloyd Dedeaux, Alyssa Crowell, David Duvall and Ian Stewart, traveled May 14-15 to West Monroe to perform a remap and a coding of Hasley Cemetery, located in Arkansas. Road to West Monroe. The project is funded by the city.

The team has completed the initial phase of the project, a GPR survey and mapping of all headstones, locating approximately 18 unmarked graves, and will then build a GIS for the cemetery and start entering names. The end product will be an online searchable database listing the tombstones and locations of all those buried at Hasley Cemetery.

“Projects like these are a good way to gain practical field experience from our students in real world applications with the development of geographic information systems, imitation of project management, use of a total station global positioning system and interpretation of ground penetrating radar, “” Dr. Holt says. “These types of field experiments are why our geography majors are successful when they graduate from Southern Miss. “

Using the GPR gives Dr Holt and his teams the ability to assess areas of interest over large areas, where the only other methods include manual sounding or excavation. A 400 MHz GPR instrument in use at the site allows a signal to travel through the earth and reflect back to the receiver, changing the transmission rates of that signal allowing researchers to interpret variations in materials below the surface. A live analysis method required the marking of areas of interest to reanalyze areas of higher confidence in order to plot unmarked graves in the developed GIS.

Dr. Holt and student research teams have scanned several cemeteries over the years, including in Alexandria, Louisiana and Auburn, Alabama and Mississippi in Hattiesburg and on the Gulf Coast, looking for graves unmarked. Dr Holt’s help was also enlisted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina to help identify burial sites in a storm-damaged Long Beach cemetery.

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