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Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo and Fairfield University Use Ground Penetrating Radar to Map Prairie Dog Burrows

Study Partners Include State Archeologist, the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, and United States Department of Agriculture  BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – November 20, 2017 – Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo’s bellwether behavioral studies program in concert with the Biology Department at Fairfield University has gone one step further to improve animal welfare and conservation: using the latest technology to solve an underground mystery. An encounter between Ashley Byun, Ph.D., Fairfield University’s associate professor of biology and Brian Jones, Ph.D., state archaeologist, at a recent TEDx event in Danbury spurred the idea for using Ground Penetrating Radar to map the complicated maze of burrows that is home to two Black-Tailed prairie dog colonies at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo. Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) mapping equipment was brought to the Zoo by Jones. David Colbert, program and public information coordinator for the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, and Debbie Surabian, state soil scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture, assisted in the work. The team was joined by Scott Brady, with the Friends of the Office of State Archaeology (FOSA), and Jim Knox, curator of education for the Zoo, along with Linda Tomas Zoo Registrar, and Animal Care Specialists Greg Westman and J.T. Warner. Rope lines and colored flags identified a path for the radar equipment to follow, corresponding to careful measurements of the burrows beneath the ground. The GPR equipment was guided over the uneven terrain on a wheeled cart. “We’ve been tracking the prairie dog colony for three years now,” said Byun. “We’ve tried a lot of different ways to figure out the different burrow connections and the population dynamics in...