Vulcan County and the University of Lethbridge are collaborating to locate lost graves within their county, in an initiative called Locating Missing Grave Sites using Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems.

They want to further our understanding of local history and safely recover lost graves.

"Unmarked graves have posed a significant challenge for rural communities for years," says Christopher Northcutt of Vulcan County in a news release. Northcutt adds that many of the cemeteries in the Vulcan County were once associated with small towns, but now, they are the local municipalities' and local service organizations' responsibility to maintain.

 "The absence of accurate records and mapping has not only hindered cemetery expansion but made it more likely for historical graves to be unintentionally disturbed during excavations," Northcott explains.

Using remotely piloted aircrafts equipped with thermal imaging and multispectral imaging technology, research intern Paul Novoseltzev and his team of U of Lethbridge students will search out the gravesites that have been lost to time and memory. The team is under the guidance of Dr. Craig Coburn.

"Using these technologies, we will be able to conduct non-destructive and cost-effective surveys of potential grave sites," says Novoseltzev. 

Novoseltzev added that they hope to identify lost graves and update municipal records, with maps, to prevent future disturbances of this sites.

This project is partially funded by a $15,000 gift from Mitacs, which is a non-profit national research organization. Municipal stakeholders, including Vulcan County, the villages of Milo, Lomond, and Carmangay are providing the remaining half of the funding to the project.
Additional support and funding came from the Carmangay Historical Society, Carmangay Agricultural Society, Lions Club of Lomond and the Lions Club of Milo.

At this time, the team has completed nearly all necessary drone flights. The University of Lethbridge says that these flights have generated a large collection of accurate location-referenced images that overlay the variations in temperature.

The data from this project will help local communities create cemetery profiles and help to identify where further investigation is required to help identify potentially lost grave sites.

Local histories will be examined to help tie the technical findings to historical context.

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