An Application of Ground-Penetrating Radar at a Greater Yellowstone Area Ice Patch


  • Brandon Ackermann Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research
  • Craig M. Lee University of Colorado
  • David McWethy Montana State University
  • Nathan Chellman Desert Research Institute
  • Joe McConnell Desert Research Institute



Ground-penetrating radar, GPR, Remote Sensing, Ice Patch, Greater Yellowstone Area, Rocky Mountains


Ice patches are an irreplaceable archive of past events. With atypical melting now occurring around the world, it is important to be able to quantify and interpret the potential of what remains in areas of archaeological interest. A ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey was conducted at an archaeologically productive ice patch in the Greater Yellowstone Area to identify sediment layers in which archaeological materials may be present. Numerous reflective surfaces were observed and interpreted as being organic-rich layers called lags. GPR did not reveal all lag surfaces that were easily identifiable in an ice core that was collected concurrently at the same ice patch. 400 MHz and 900 MHz antennas were used in the survey, but neither fully revealed the basal profile of the ice patch. This is likely the result of the short time-window in which the data were collected, as opposed to attenuation of the radar waves deep in the ice. Future applications of the technology are explored.

Author Biographies

Brandon Ackermann, Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research

Brandon Ackermann is a senior archaeologist with the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, Division of Historical Resources, Florida Department of State. He researches geophysical and geospatial technologies and their impact on cultural resources decision-making and public lands management.

Craig M. Lee, University of Colorado

Craig M. Lee is a scientist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, an instructor at Montana State University, and a principal investigator at Metcalf Archaeological Consultants. His research interests include the human ecology and landscape archaeology of alpine and high-altitude environments.

David McWethy, Montana State University

David McWethy is an associate professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Montana State University. His research centers on understanding how humans amplify or dampen the influence of climate on disturbance regimes and ecosystem change at different spatiotemporal scales.

Nathan Chellman, Desert Research Institute

Nathan Chellman is a researcher at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, NV. He studies environmental change over recent centuries and millennia using ice cores, lake sediments, and tree rings.

Joe McConnell, Desert Research Institute

Joe McConnell is an environmental and climate scientist at the Desert Research Institute. He uses detailed chemical measurements in ice cores collected from polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers to study the interplay between early and modern human activities and the environment.


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How to Cite

Ackermann, B., Lee, C. M., McWethy, D., Chellman, N., & McConnell, J. (2021). An Application of Ground-Penetrating Radar at a Greater Yellowstone Area Ice Patch. Journal of Glacial Archaeology, 5, 73–84.