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JMU professor creating 3D map of Grand Caverns

Stalactites inside Grand Caverns
Stalactites inside Grand Caverns(WHSV)
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 3:17 PM EDT
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GROTTOES, Va. (WHSV) - The Town of Grottoes is partnering with a James Madison University geology professor and his students to create a three-dimensional map of Grand Caverns, a network of caves that is one of the town’s biggest attractions.

The project will be completed with LIDAR (light detecting and ranging). The LIDAR scanner sends pulses of light to map points in space throughout the caverns, which sends back a 3D scan.

“With the LIDAR we’ll be able to get into corners and sort of see what hasn’t been looked at for a long time, all the different formations we’ve been missing out of,” said Loreli Dellavedova, a JMU geology student and research assistant on the project.

JMU Assistant Professor Dr. Angel Garcia is leading the project alongside three student research assistants. Garcia says he is excited to explore the caverns with the detail available from LIDAR.

“It’s going to be able to detect the stalagmites, the stalactites. It is even going to be able to detect that cave shield, because it’s that precise,” Garcia said.

Garcia adds that he is looking for the mapping to provide knowledge that will enhance the caverns tour.

The research team also hopes to learn more about human impact on the caverns.

“I would be interested to see if there’s any other human impacts in here that we can’t see, but maybe the LIDAR can pick up,” Dellavedova said.

Garcia says the 3D model will provide an opportunity for those who can’t physically enter the caverns to learn what they are all about.

The team will spend the entire summer mapping a large section of the caverns, and mapping the entire network will take nearly a year.

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