In a groundbreaking initiative that bridges the gap between universities and local municipalities, the University of Lethbridge and Vulcan County have joined forces to address a long-standing issue of unmarked graves in rural Southern Alberta. This innovative project, titled "Locating Missing Grave Sites using Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems," aims to utilize cutting-edge geospatial technology to locate and document potentially lost grave sites, enriching our understanding of local history, and providing a respectful approach to cemetery management.

Collaboration with Vulcan County

The partnership between the University and Vulcan County represents a significant step toward community engagement and historical preservation. This collaborative endeavour is fuelled by a shared commitment to safeguarding the region's heritage and ensuring that these final resting places receive the recognition they deserve.

Unmarked Graves: A Historical Challenge

Unmarked graves have posed a significant challenge for rural communities. In Vulcan County, many of the cemeteries, which were associated with small towns, are now the responsibility of the county and local service organizations to maintain. Many of these cemeteries have markers that have gone missing or were never recorded. The absence of accurate records and mapping has not only hindered cemetery expansion but has also made it more likely for historical graves to be unintentionally disturbed during excavations.

The Mitacs Program and Project Funding

The heart of this project is the partnerships that have been generated through coming together on this valuable project. Mitacs is a funding agency that supports partnership research such as this and has confirmed that $15,000 in funding will be provided, half of the total project budget. The other half of funding contributions will come from various stakeholders including Vulcan County, and the villages of Carmangay, Lomond and Milo. The Carmangay Historical Society, the Carmangay Agricultural Society, the Lions Club of Lomond, and the Lions Club of Milo all rallied to support this important initiative and close the remaining funding gap. While Vulcan County Administration is coordinating this truly community-driven project amongst the municipalities, the additional resources being brought forward by the University is indicative of the unique success stories that can be realized through Mitacs collaborative ventures such as this one.

Meet the Team

The research intern for this project is Paul Novoseltsev, who will work closely with Dr. Craig Coburn (Department of Geography & Environment) from the University of Lethbridge. Paul's role is crucial, as he will be responsible for using remote piloted aircraft systems equipped with multispectral and thermal imaging technology, as well as conducting terrain analysis using topography rendered from Structure from Motion (SfM) to locate the missing graves.

The Power of Technology

The application of these advanced geospatial technologies allows Paul to conduct non-destructive and cost-effective surveys of potential grave sites. The multispectral and thermal imaging, in conjunction with SfM-derived topography, will enable Paul to identify graves that may have been lost to time. By doing so, he will contribute to updating municipal records and creating detailed maps that will prevent future disturbances of these sacred sites.

Preserving History, Building the Future

The “Locating Missing Grave Sites using Remote Piloted Aircraft Systems” project is not just about addressing a pressing issue; it’s also about honouring the history and heritage of these rural communities. By accurately locating and documenting these lost graves, the project ensures that the stories of those who came before us are preserved for future generations.

This collaborative effort between the University and Vulcan County exemplifies the power of partnerships and the importance of engaging with rural communities to address their specific needs. Together, we are taking strides to protect and celebrate the rich history that lies beneath the fields and southern Alberta landscapes. To learn more please click here.

Collaborate, Innovate, Elevate: Together We Shine

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